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BAC and New Year's Eve

BAC and New Year's Eve

Mike Hendricks
Friday, December 30, 2005

BAC is an abbreviation for Blood Alcohol Content, as in drinking and driving. In 1938, the National Safety Council Committee on Tests for Intoxication established three "zones of influence" in regards to blood alcohol content. A BAC of .05 or lower was defined as "not under the influence," .05 to .15 was defined as "possibly under the influence," and higher than .15 was defined as "under the influence." These findings were incorporated into New York law in 1941.
In 1971, the New York Legislature lowered the prima facie standard to .12. A year later, it was lowered to the American Medical Associations 1960 standard of .10.

In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers -- MADD -- was founded by Candy Lightner in California.

On Oct. 23, 2000, President Clinton signed legislation requiring all states to implement a .08 standard for "under the influence" or lose a portion of their federal highway funding. All states have since complied.

I write about this today because tonight, New Year's Eve, more people will drink at least one alcoholic beverage than any other night of the year and many of them will drive or attempt to drive home. In fact, the joke among regular drinkers is that New Year's Eve is "amateur night" and many "professional drinkers" stay home because it's just not safe out there.

But the real question here is when does a person's blood alcohol content reach the level when they actually become a safety hazard if they attempt to drive? According to the law, it's .08 but is that accurate? In most cases, it's not.

Refer back to paragraph one and you will see that at one time the standard was almost twice as much as it is today. It has consistently been lowered since that first determination back in 1938, but not for reasons you would think. For the most part, the lowering has been politically motivated rather than medically motivated.

Whatever the BAC standard is and regardless of how it is reached, it is never anything more than an average. But

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