SPECIAL REPORT: Lowering the Limit

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Every day, 27 people are killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

To lower that number, the National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that all 50 states drop their blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff from .08 down to 0.05 for drunk drivers. The group says the change would save nearly a thousand lives each year, but not everyone likes the idea.

We hit the streets of downtown Columbus to test drinkers, and tagged along with troopers for DUI arrests, investigating how lowering the limit could impact people.

Corporal Ricky Stiles was there asking volunteers to take a breathalyzer.

"A beer will get you there, then time will get you under," Cpl. Stiles said.

Becky Culberson was surprised she blew a .088 that night. She didn't expect her number to be so high.

"No, not at all, because one beer and margarita, two hours ago," said Culberson.

The National Transportation Safety Board said some drivers begin having difficulty with depth perception and other issues with vision at .05, the level Richard Rodriguez reached.

"If I drink anything, it's a no go, no driving whatsoever," Rodriguez said.

We followed the Georgia State Patrol's 'Nighthawks', who focus almost solely on DUI enforcement, handcuffing at least 65 accused drunk drivers every month. They say they saw a young lady stumbling to her car then drive away. Stopping and arresting her for DUI, she had a BAC of .17, twice the legal limit.

Making DUI limits like this is not just to put people behind bars, but to prevent alcohol-related crashes, which killed 10,000 people last year alone.

In downtown Columbus, Chad Dobbs blew a .108. We asked him what he thought about changing the legal limit.

"Oh, that will get more DUIs for everyone. It's more money for the country," Dobbs said.

According to a blood-alcohol calculator, a 180 pound man hits .05 after two to three drinks in an hour, but it would take four drinks for him to reach .08. Two drinks gets a 120 pound woman to the .08 threshold. One drink for her means .04.

The founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn't support the proposal to lower the limit to .05, saying it's unrealistic and won't be enforced.

Police go through rigorous training on field sobriety test to determine if someone is too impaired to drive.

Andrew Duncan, a volunteer drinker for police training, was arrested for DUI almost 12 years ago. He says no matter what your number is, don't drink and drive.

"A taxi is a lot cheaper than a lawyer, DUI fees, etc.," Duncan said.

Less than one percent of traffic fatalities in 2011 were caused by drivers with blood-alcohol levels between .05 and .08, according to the American Beverage Institute.

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