While claiming the 0.08 BAC does not work, there is a push to lower blood alcohol limit now to 0.05. So why not take it all the way down to 0.00 BAC? Here we examine the arguments both for and against.
Lower Blood Alcohol Limit – Helpful or Hurtful
On March 8, Utah lawmakers voted to lower the BAC limit to .05 which the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending for years. If enacted, the law takes effect December 30, 2018, just in time for New Year’s Eve. So things don’t look good for anyone who has a drink with dinner or for restaurants that serve them. While a .05 BAC proposal is shocking to some, it is not new. Rather, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been recommending states lower the legal BAC level for years.
In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims studies show drivers have trouble at 0.05. In addition to steering and coordination, drivers cannot effectively track moving objects or respond to emergency situations. Consequently, supporters believe a lower legal limit will save lives by keeping impaired drivers off the road. However, opponents fear the law only makes criminals out of otherwise responsible drinkers.
Would Lower Blood Alcohol Limit Make a Difference
Rather than focus on truly drunk drivers, one Utah legislator said this law only criminalizes responsible behavior. (see Longwell statement) According to Longwell, more than 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths in Utah result from BAC .15 or above. In addition, drunk driving deaths increased in Utah between 2013 and 2014, from 23 to 45. However, drunk driving deaths nationally decreased by a third in the past three decades, according to NHTSA. Seems like a solution in search of a problem to opponents. Hence, the NTSB cites a 2013 study showing fatal crashes decreased in Queensland and New South Wales. Of course, these studies do not account for other reasons like mandatory seatbelt laws.
So why not “just make it a 0.00 percent limit?” said Utah Sen. Luz Escamilla, a Democrat. Instead, “we should create laws that have real impact, not just ones that are symbolic.” Furthermore, “it’s a terrible law,” said Michele T. Corigliano. In addition, “because .05 percent is so low, it will put people in jail who should not be in jail.” Finally, 0.05 is such an “extremely low-level … people who use too much mouthwash could be targeted.” While making the usual “public safety” plea, 0.05 laws only makes more criminals. With the new law, responsible drinking magically becomes illegal. Rather than making more people criminals, let’s focus on truly impaired drivers.
What Really Works in DUI
Instead of new laws, why not just enforce the existing ones? As a result of more and more laws, you can get into trouble without even realizing it. Hence, studies find the average person unknowingly breaks the law several times every day. Frankly, even as a lawyer, it is hard to keep up. Almost everyone agrees there are too many laws already. So set up checkpoints and get the truly dangerous drivers off the road. In addition, news of increased arrests would deter others from taking a chance. Win. Win.