If the National Transportation Safety Board has anything to say about it, the national standard for intoxication behind the wheel will soon be slashed from a blood-alcohol content level of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.
Our Fort Lauderdale DUI attorneys understand this proposal recommends all 50 states and/or Congress pass a measure enacting the new standard.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Clinton Administration strong-armed all 50 states and the District of Columbia into enacting the 0.08 percent standard back in 2000 by threatening to withhold highway construction money from any state that defied the order.
Prior to that, the standard BAC intoxication threshold was 0.10 to .15 percent. Now, a motorist testing .15 percent may face additional sanctions for testing nearly twice the legal limit.
Over the last several years, we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of motor vehicle deaths throughout the country. Advocates for stronger DUI laws indicate that this is primarily due to the more stringent laws that have been enacted. However, they discount some critical facts in that equation: We have cars that are better designed, we have highways that are better maintained, we have higher seat belt usage and more motorcyclists and bicyclists wearing helmets.
Advocates argue that, “If we save one life, it’s worth it.” Certainly, we don’t want anyone to be injured or killed. However, as Sarah Longwell of the restaurant trade association the American Beverage Institute noted, this kind of change would essentially criminalize behavior that is perfectly responsible. We’d be thrusting the burden of a criminal record – and all the time, expense and other penalties – upon individuals who are doing nothing wrong.
What’s more, this kind of action targets adults who are responsible, social drinkers who engage in moderate consumption. It has no bearing whatsoever on individuals who are hardcore, heavy drinkers who cause a huge portion of alcohol-related fatalities.
Beer Institute president Joe McClain has been quoted as saying that rather than go after social drinkers, the NTSB should narrow its efforts to areas where the government may be most likely to get results. That is, by increasing penalties on repeat offenders or those with a BAC of 0.15 percent or more.
Interestingly, not even Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is fully supporting this initiative, primarily because the agency says it won’t be effective in actually curbing drunk driving injuries or fatalities. It will only result in more arrests.
A spokesman for MADD said that while the group favored other NTSB initiatives, such as mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders and administrative license revocation, which allows officers to seize a person’s license at the time of arrest, the lowering of the legal BAC would have little impact on the overall death toll.
Changing the definition of drunk, the spokesman said, does little to solve the problem. Still, the group contended it isn’t going to oppose the measure, but rather, focus its advocacy efforts on other measures it anticipates will be more effective.