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Restaurant industry fear as harsh drink-driving laws proposed

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Could new drink-driving laws destroy the restaurant industry?

Under new proposals outlined by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, drivers returning from wining and dining could be pulled over. The board wants to impose harsher restrictions for anyone consuming alcohol and then driving, and so have suggested that blood alcohol content above 0.05 when driving becomes illegal.

Currently, the limit is 0.08. In drinking terms, this could mean that for some people, having a single glass of wine will set you over the limit -- something that is beginning to panic restaurateurs.

Sarah Longwell, the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said that the new legislation would have a "devastating impact" on the industry, and would take away "some of the magic, the ambiance of a night out." Out of fear of being pulled over, it's likely that social drinkers will forego the drink with dinner -- not only impacting businesses and sales, but removing part of the fun of going out.

Restaurants, servers, suppliers and bartenders may take the hit -- but as citizens look to enjoy a drink with their meal, it could mean that retail sales will go up as people stay at home and cook.

The new proposal is based on research which shows driving impairment begins with one drink, and after consuming any alcohol, the risk of being involved in a crash is "significantly greater." However, when you take into account that 70 percent of drunk-driver incidents are caused by those with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher -- according to the American Beverage Institute -- this blanket ban may not be the answer to lowering the annual 10,000 fatality rate caused by drink drivers.

Longwell believes that "it will have a tremendous impact on the moderate social drinker and almost no impact on the hard-core drinkers."

The NTSB 0.08 recommendation was first introduced in 1982.

Read More: The Huffington Post

Image credit: Flickr

— By on May 19, 2013, 11:47 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure