Even MADD founder Candace Lightner, whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver in 1980, has referred to MADD in the past as "neo-prohibitionist" and thinks that going to 0.05 percent BAC would be a waste of time. She told U.S. News, "You could go to 0.0, and that would save lives. You could go to a 40 mph speed limit, and that would save lives, but you have to look at what's realistic."

Ultimately, a 0.05 percent BAC wouldn't be enforced, she believes. More important, it would distract enforcement and resources from what she sees as much more significant issues—high-BAC drunk driving and drugged driving.

Schroeder did not want to address the "hypothetical" impact of lowering the BAC limit. "We'll enforce the laws that are passed," she says. "We're getting better and better at preventing deaths. We've got special advocates like MADD. There's better education. Everyone knows it's dangerous. We're getting better."

Bryan: Drove with a BAC of 0.17, twice the legal limit
Bryan: Drove with a BAC of 0.17, twice the legal limit
Not even FDR could stop drunk driving
Library of Congress
Not even FDR could stop drunk driving

Indeed, deaths from impaired-driver-related crashes dropped nationally from 21,113 in 1982 to 9,878 in 2011. Yet, as Lightner notes, extremely drunk driving remains as seemingly intractable a problem as alcoholism itself. Griffin points to New Mexico, where fatalities fell 46 percent after the state mandated interlock devices for all DUI convictions.

"There's no one answer," concludes Schroeder. "Longer jail sentences, put them in lockdown rehab. It's a constant battle."

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