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NTSB recommends new threshold for drunk driving

In an effort to reduce alcohol related deaths, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending states cut the threshold for drunk driving nearly in half from .08 to .05.

The NTSB says more than 100 countries have adopted the new standard and the U.S. should be next. Traffic deaths in Europe have dropped by more than half within the ten years the new standard was adopted.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) says he would consider the new standard.

“I’m certainly predisposed to supporting at it, but I’m really looking to our nurses and our other folks in the Legislature who have really spent a lot of time looking at the implications and have a deeper understanding. I think we have to look at it as a team,” says Carlyle.

Lawmakers are already tackling new DUI legislation during a special session, but Carlyle says it looks more likely it won’t happen this time around.

“There’s a desire to get it done, but we’re not going to rush it through if it’s not full baked.”

The new measures include requiring anyone arrested for suspicion of DUI remain in jail until they see a judge. Once released, a driver would have to install an ignition-interlock device and certify it to the court within five days.

The bill may also include increasing prison time for a second and third DUI, but allowing for drivers to avoid incarceration by seeking substance abuse treatment. Making a fourth DUI conviction a felony, rather than the fifth, is also under review. Requiring daily alcohol monitoring in lieu of jail time is an option.

Several more ambitious proposals include a 10-year ban on buying alcohol for three time offenders.

Carlyle says lawmakers were already trying to rush a bill through, but now with the NTSB recommendation, they have even more to consider.

“It might make sense to look a little bit more holistically at the range of penalties, treatment options, local government support, public safety,” says
Carlyle. “Rather than be quick, we need to be responsible and right.”

The biggest stumbling block to passing the new measures is finding the money to pay for it.

While the proposals don’t have a price tag yet, Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) admits it’ll cost at least “tens of millions.”

KIRO Radio’s Kim Shepard contributed to this report.

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