Drunk Driving

Effort to Lower BAC Level Spreads to More States


Last year, Utah became the first state to lower the blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05. Utah’s change was followed by a report from the National Academy of Sciences, calling for more states to follow suit. Now, several states are considering .05-level legislation, including Michigan, California, and New York. The OC Register’s editorial board weighed in one why a lower limit could be counterproductive:

Many people drink less while out at pubs or restaurants to avoid getting stopped for DUI. Such arrests can lead to jail stays, costly legal bills and the loss of one’s driver’s license. People who actually are impaired deserve those harsh punishments, but we fear that reducing the legal limit will mainly ensnare people who might not be impaired. The goal should be removing drunks from the road, not arresting non-drunks.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that 92 percent of alcohol-related fatalities involve a driver with a BAC of 0.10, according to Jackson Shedelbower of the American Beverage Institute. This confirms other information we’ve seen: the main drunken-driving dangers come from a relatively small group of heavy drinkers, not from people who have had a glass of wine or two with dinner…

We fear that lowering the BAC will simply make it easier for police agencies to set up checkpoints and then issue press releases about the growing number of drunken drivers that they have removed from the road. Yet it’s better to divert scarce resources to programs and policing efforts that capture the real scofflaws…

Read the rest here.

Delaware Latest State to Consider Lowering the DUI Threshold


Delaware lawmakers are considering a bill that would lower the state's drunk driving threshold from .08 BAC to .05. This proposal comes on the heels of Utah's recent decision to lower its threshold to .05--a move which triggered a significant backlash and was even opposed by the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. WDEL has the story from Delaware:

House Bill 320, if passed, would change the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) required for driving under the influence arrests from .08 to .05, a legislative measure aimed at reducing drunk driving and the fatalities that they cause.

In Delaware, nearly 60 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve drivers with BACs of 0.15 and above, while only about 2 percent of traffic deaths involve someone with a BAC between the legislation’s targeted interval of 0.05 and 0.08, according to ABI [American Beverage Institute].

Sarah Longwell, Executive Director of ABI, said the legislation would hurt the hospitality industry because social drinkers will feel that extra drink will lead to a DUI, and then other people won't even be able to have one drink because of their weight.

"The .05 limit is so low that it would essentially mean a 120 lb woman would be in a position of being arrested after a single drink," said Longwell. "It's going to have a tremendous chilling affect on moderate, social drinkers who otherwise would have gone out to happy hour dinner, split a bottle of wine with their spouse. At this point, splitting a bottle of wine with your spouse would put you absolutely in a place where you would get arrested if you drove home." ...

More here.

New Study Calls for Lowering the Drunk Driving Threshold


The National Academy of Sciences has released a lengthy report on drunk driving, which recommends, among other things, lowering the blood-alcohol level for what constitutes drunk driving to .05 from .08. Fox News reports:

"A prestigious scientific panel is recommending that states significantly lower their drunken driving thresholds as part of a blueprint to eliminate the "entirely preventable" 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.

The U.S. government-commissioned, 489-page report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Wednesday throws the weight of the scientific body behind lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state's threshold to 0.05 doesn't go into effect until Dec. 30.

The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person's size and whether the person has recently eaten. A 150-pound man might be over the 0.05 limit after two beers, while a 120-pound woman could exceed it after a single drink, according to the American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant group.

The panel also recommended that states significantly increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol less conveniently available, including reducing the hours and days alcohol is sold in stores, bars and restaurants..."

More here.

Both the American Beverage Licensees and the Distilled Spirits Council issued statements opposing the report's call for lowering the threshold, arguing that doing so distracts from efforts to crackdown on repeat drunk driving offenders and heavy binge drinkers, who constitute the majority of drunk drivers on the road today.

As Fox News article notes, Utah recently passed a law lowering its drunk driving threshold to .05, a change which was met with severe resistance (even the founder of MADD opposed the change). In fact, Utah's governor has suggested that the new law might be tweaked in response to the pushback.

Utah Governor Suggests New DUI Law Could Be Tweaked


Earlier this year, Utah signed a controversial DUI law that would lower the blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving to .05, from .08. This gave Utah the lowest DUI limit in the nation (see previous DrinksReform.org coverage here). Perhaps in response to blowback concerning this change--even MADD came out against it--Gov. Gary Herbert is signaling that the law could be reformed, according to The Salt Lake Tribune:

"While he’s backed off plans to call a special legislative session this year to alter Utah’s new toughest-in-the-nation drunken driving law, Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday outlined some major changes he would like to see next year.

Those include imposing lighter penalties for those who barely exceed the new 0.05 percent blood alcohol limit for impairment, while continuing existing tougher punishment for those who violate the current 0.08 standard.

Another option, Herbert said, may be to delay the effective date of the law — now set to kick in on Dec. 30, 2018 — until after perhaps two or three other states pass similar legislation..."

Read more here.



Founder of MADD says Utah’s new drunk driving law is an unhelpful distraction

Utah recently lowered the blood-alcohol limit for what constitutes drunk driving (covered previously on DrinksReform.org). In response, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has written an op-ed opposing the change and claiming it distracts from other serious driver safety concerns:

"Back in the early years at MADD we focused on getting serious drunk drivers off the road. Believe it or not, back then someone who was pulled over for drunk driving might be sent on their way by an officer with little more than a casual "get home safe." As a result many lives were unnecessarily lost, including my daughter's. In the more than 35 years since MADD's founding, we have fought drunk driving ferociously and saved countless lives in the process.

But today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction — with government agencies pushing states to arrest people for having little to drink before driving instead of pursuing strategies to tackle serious distraction and impairment. Anyone who works in traffic safety knows that most highway deaths are not caused by drivers with low blood alcohol content levels, but are the result of drivers with substance abuse disorders. Focusing finite resources on casual drinkers instead of drug and alcohol abusers is a miscalculation with deadly consequences..."

Read the whole op-ed here: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/5399043-155/op-ed-founder-of-madd-says-utahs

Herbert signs bill lowering blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent

As highlighted previously on DrinksReform.org, Utah's legislature was considering a controversial bill to lower the blood-alcohol limit; this legislation has now been signed by the governor and will become law:

"Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed the controversial bill that lowers the legal blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent, stressing repeatedly it is an issue of public safety.

"Herbert said earlier in the day during his monthly press conference on KUED Ch. 7 that the decision came after thorough research and in consultation with multiple stakeholders.

"The governor said he will call a special session in August or September, however, "to address the unintended and collateral consequences" of the law, which will be the first in the country to lower the standard for impaired drivers from .08 percent when it takes effect Dec. 30, 2018..."

Read more at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865676264/Herbert-will-sign-bill-lowering-blood-alcohol-limit-to-05-percent.html


Problems of lower alcohol limit are many, and the advantages are non-existent

Sarah Longwell writes in The Salt Lake Tribune:

"Pending Gov. Gary Herbert's signature, Utah will become the first state in the nation to lower its legal drunk driving threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 blood-alcohol content.
"Unfortunately, the new law is unlikely to save lives. However, it is sure to ruin some..."

Read more at: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/5036007-155/op-ed-problems-of-lower-alcohol-limit