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U.S. agency backs lower blood alcohol limit for drivers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top transportation safety agency voted on Tuesday to recommend a lower blood alcohol limit for drivers, advancing its campaign to cut down on drinking-related road deaths through a stricter definition of impairment.

At a meeting in Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on state authorities to reduce the legal limit by nearly 40 percent to 0.05 percent. All 50 U.S. states now have a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.08 percent for drivers aged 21 and over, and younger drivers are held to stricter standards.

The NTSB has no authority to change the state laws but its backing of the lower limit could add pressure on regulators to adopt the 0.05 percent rule.

The federal agency has launched a "Reaching Zero" campaign to help avert alcohol-related accidents and increase public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Alcohol-impaired driving causes an estimated 10,000 deaths per year in the United States, making up 30 percent of all U.S. highway deaths, according to the NTSB. In a 2011 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 14 percent of U.S. drivers admitted to driving when they thought they were close to or over the legal limit.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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