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How Low Can It Go?


25 years ago Tuesday, the nation's worst DUI-related accident happened on an interstate highway in Kentucky. A truck going the wrong way struck a school bus full of children, killing 27. The mother of one of those victims became the national president of mothers against drunk driving.

"My daughter patty was not only the youngest to die, Karolyn Nunnallee told the audience at a memorial event Monday. "But, according to autopsy reports she was the last to die."

Coincidentally or not, on that anniversary, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a reccommendation that the legal blood alcohol level, the level at which drivers could be charged with driving under the influence, should be lowered to .05. It is now .08, after being lowered from .1 a few years ago.

"Each alcohol-related crash is preventable," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said Tuesday. "No one should ever experience that knock on the door and that notification that far too many families have received."

But West Virginia Delegate and local attorney John Ellem notes .05 could be easily reached with one drink, depending on your weight. And he's also concerned how more DUI arrests might affect the local legal system.

"With the increased prosecution, that's more of a drain on the state's resources," said Ellem (R-Wood County). "That was the concern about going to .08. It also occurs to me that the intoximeter machine and the various tests that are used are not necessarily 100% accurate."

Ellem says education is the best tool for preventing drunk driving accidents: educating the public not to drink and drive.


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