Per NTSB recommendation, state could lower DUI limit - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Per NTSB recommendation, state could lower DUI limit

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Last year, 26,000 people in South Carolina were arrested for driving under the influence.

Now, federal and state lawmakers are considering tougher DUI legislation to prevent alcohol related crashes that kill more than 10,000 people every year.

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending all states adopt a .05 blood alcohol content cut off, a measure they say could save up to 800 lives per year, but lowering that limit would have a wide range of consequences.

"I'll have more business," said attorney Pete Strom.

Strom says it would start with more arrests.

"Ten percent more people would be charged," said Strom. "I think you'll see a lower conviction rate on these lower numbers. They'll be more people charged, but I don't think they'll win as many of those cases as they do with rates like .15."

Taking a cue from national recommendations, Darlington County Sen. Gerald Malloy introduced similar threshold reduction legislation late this session.

"We've been looking at interlocks and other things to see if we can make the highway safer and its not something we're totally vested in, but its something to encourage the debate," said Malloy.

It's a debate with a lot at stake, especially in South Carolina.

"Up until last year, we were tied first in the nation for number of alcohol-related crashes," said South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper Brent Kelly. "But it did fall last year. We fell from 44 percent to 38 percent in 2012 as far as alcohol-related crashes, so now we're 7th in the nation."

If enacted, the new threshold would also impact the bottom line of many local businesses who could see their customers' bar tabs decrease by 50 percent.

"The economy is definitely going to be affected because people -- responsible people -- aren't going to drink as much when they go out to dinner," said Strom. "As tough as the job market is, any kind of criminal record is a problem for young people and old people."

Now even if the limit is lowered, according to statistics, 68 percent of the alcohol-related traffic fatalities in South Carolina were caused by drivers with a blood alcohol content level of more than .15 percent.

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