GREEN BAY - Big changes could be coming to drunken driving laws in Wisconsin and across the country.
Federal officials are pushing cut legal driving levels nearly in half.
The National Transportation Safety Board made the recommendation Tuesday. And board officials say the move could save thousands of lives a year.
In an effort to reduce alcohol-related deaths on the roads, the NTSB wants states to drop the legal driving blood alcohol level from .08 to .05.
According to the NTSB, the change means a woman weighing less than 120 pounds could reach the .05 limit after just one drink. A man weighing up to 160 pounds can get there after two drinks in an hour.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates 7,082 deaths would have been prevented in 2010 if all drivers on the road had blood alcohol content below .08 percent.
"Wisconsin, if we weren't the last, we were the second to last state to change from .08," explained Captain Randy Schultz with the Brown County Sheriff's Office. "It's going to bring up some pretty interesting conversation and we're really right now in the beginning of it."
Wisconsin changed the law from .10 to .08 in 2003, in response to possible cuts to federal highway aid. However, Schultz says there are still too many unanswered questions to take a stance on the new proposal.
"What difference did we see, in per capita OWI arrests when we went from a .10 to a .08? And is that something that supports making an additional change where it gets a response, just a change in law gets a response in behavior," Schultz explained.
"The only thing this proposal will accomplish is criminalizing perfectly responsibly behavior," said Barry Fitzgerald, president of the Brown County Tavern League.
Those with the Brown County Tavern League feel such a change is an unnecessary move.
"It's going to discourage people from going to bars, to restaurants," Fitzgerald said. "These resources should really be put into chronic drunk drivers, the repeat offenders; you know the third, fourth, fifth penalties."
If all 50 states make the change, the U.S. would be among more than 100 other countries to do so.
Other groups, like the Mother's Against Drunk Driving, say they appreciate the effort. However, members say there are better ways to increase safety.
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