Ethical acceptability of reducing the legal blood alcohol concentration limit to 0.05

Stephanie Morain, Emily Largent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Twenty-nine Americans die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes daily. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that identified strategies to reduce alcohol-impaired driving deaths. One strategy suggests amending state laws to reduce the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from 0.08 to 0.05. AlthoughBAC 0.05 laws would likely reduce alcohol-related deaths, they are also controversial. Critics object to these laws because they restrict individual liberty and fail to consider that individuals value social drinking. We explored the ethical acceptability of BAC 0.05 laws. We made an ethical argument in support of BAC 0.05 laws, which include preventing harm to both drinking drivers and to others. We then considered and rejected liberty-based objections to BAC 0.05 laws. We concluded that BAC 0.05 laws are not only ethically defensible but desirable. States and Congress should work to promote them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-713
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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