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Friday, March 17, 2017

Alcohol Legal Limit Debate

DUI
It was a long, hard fight to convince every state to come along with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which required states to pass individual legislation raising the drinking age to 21. Fourteen years later, under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998, a Federal incentive grant was created encouraging states to set a driver blood alcohol content (BAC) limit at .08. Congress adopted .08 BAC as the national illegal limit in 2000.

Driving under the influence is a major concern in every state. Thousands of Americans lose their life every year from alcohol-related traffic accidents. Millions of dollars are spent annually to educate young people about the dangers of drunk driving, yet such efforts often fall on deaf ears. In many cases, people who get one DUI end up getting several more before the lesson is learned by serving serious jail time.

It appears with each year that passes, states attach stiffer penalties to those caught driving under the influence. How much alcohol it takes to reach .08 BAC depends on one’s metabolism, body weight and type of alcohol. But, it is generally agreed that 2 to 3 alcoholic beverages will put someone around or above the illegal limit to drive. Although, one should always keep it in the back of their mind that any amount of alcohol can impair one’s ability to drive.

Over the years, debates have been held about whether the .08 illegal per se law (meaning that the act is inherently illegal) was too strict. Or, not strict enough. It is easy to argue that a lower BAC limit would deter more people from taking the risk of driving with any amount of alcohol in their system.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been urging states to lower the legal limit for some time now. And, it appears that the State of Utah heard the call, poised to become the first state to implement a .05 BAC illegal per se level, according to the Associated Press. On Wednesday, state lawmakers voted in favor of lowering the legal limit, and Governor Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill which would go into effect on December 30, 2018. Just in time for the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The supporters of the reduced BAC limit believe it will save lives. On the other hand, some of the opponents of the bill say that it will only serve to hurt tourism and the hospitality industry, the article reports. States have been reluctant to do so because of pressure from the hospitality industry.

It will be interesting to see if other states decide to hop on this potentially life-saving bandwagon. It might be possible that dropping the legal limit will mean that people with alcohol use problems will determine that they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol sooner. DUI sentencing typically requires one to attend 12-step meetings and diversion programs. In many cases, people that didn't think they had a problem, realize they do.

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