Lower limits considered for OVI

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The National Transportation Safety Board has several new recommendations to cut down on more than 10,000 drunken driving deaths that happen every year.

In Ohio, 286 people died in OVI crashes in 2013. In an effort to help reduce numbers nationwide, the NTSB is recommending each state cut the blood alcohol content level (BAC) from .08 to .05.

According to statistics, someone can drive 80 times under the influence before they are arrested and charged with an OVI.

Mark Rosekind with NTSB said reducing the legal BAC could save up to 2,000 lives a year.

“One hundred countries around the world have already dropped from .08 to .05 or lower,” said Rosekind. “When you go from .08 to .05, everybody’s drinking behavior changes. Those 1,000 to 2,000 lives are not repeat offenders, that’s everybody having a life saved because of that.”

Bars could be impacted by the change based on location. Matthew Browning of O’Donold’s Irish Pub said the downtown Youngstown location probably will not see much of an impact because a lot customers walk from YSU and nearby neighborhoods, but he is concerned about his location in Austintown.

“As far as our location in the Austintown area, it could potentially hurt us just because people have to travel a distance,” Browning said.

Browning, as well as his neighbors at Martini Brothers, said they have seen a trend in drinking responsibly.

“One of the things I have noticed that are making a really big upturn are designated drivers,” said Devyn Bellamy with Martini Brothers.

But not everybody is on board with the proposed change. WKBN contacted several state legislators and State Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, doesn’t think Ohio will adopt a lower limit.

“I’m against it. I think we have gone far enough,” said Hagan.

State Rep. Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, said the real problem is getting repeat offenders off the road.

“It comes down to repeat offenses, and I think we need to get serious about that,” said Barborak.

Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving is looking at a different approach. MADD Spokesperson Julie Leggett said lowering the limit could take 20 years to become law. Instead, they are focusing their efforts on enforcement and technology.

“Someday on the horizon, we are hoping that it is in the next 10 years that the car will have technology built into it that there is no way that anyone will be able to drink and drive again,” said Leggett.

Right now in Ohio, if someone are convicted of drinking and driving, they will pay a heft fine, do some jail time or lose their license for six months. But Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill this month to make installing an interlock device on an offender’s car part of the punishment.

An interlock is a device that measures the amount of alcohol on someone’s breath. It won’t let someone crank their car if they have been drinking.

MADD is already pushing a bill through the state that would require interlocks for first-time OVI offenders. Right now, there are 17 states that require interlocks on the first offense.

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