The effectiveness of reducing illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving: evidence for lowering the limit to .05 BAC

J Safety Res. 2006;37(3):233-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2005.07.006. Epub 2006 Jul 7.


Purpose: This scientific review provides a summary of the evidence regarding the benefits of reducing the illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving and providing a case for enacting a .05 BAC limit.

Results: Fourteen independent studies in the United States indicate that lowering the illegal BAC limit from .10 to .08 has resulted in 5-16% reductions in alcohol-related crashes, fatalities, or injuries. However, the illegal limit is .05 BAC in numerous countries around the world. Several studies indicate that lowering the illegal per se limit from .08 to .05 BAC also reduces alcohol-related fatalities. Laboratory studies indicate that impairment in critical driving functions begins at low BACs and that most subjects are significantly impaired at .05 BAC. The relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash as a driver is 4 to 10 times greater for drivers with BACs between .05 and .07 compared to drivers with .00 BACs.

Summary: There is strong evidence in the literature that lowering the BAC limit from .10 to .08 is effective, that lowering the BAC limit from .08 to .05 is effective, and that lowering the BAC limit for youth to .02 or lower is effective. These law changes serve as a general deterrent to drinking and driving and ultimately save lives.

Impact on industry: This critical review supports the adoption of lower illegal BAC limits for driving.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / diagnosis
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control*
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Breath Tests
  • Ethanol / blood*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety*
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • United States


  • Ethanol