BAC Limits

By: Natalie Shepherd
By: Natalie Shepherd

A bill to lower the legal blood alcohol level to operate a vehicle is headed for debate in the state Senate. By lowering the legal blood alcohol level it would take fewer drinks before a driver in Michigan is guilty of operating under the influence.

Currently in Michigan the law says your considered drunk with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 and 0.08 is considered impaired driving. If the bill passes then the 0.08 levels would be considered drunk driving.

Thirty-four states already have a legal limit of 0.08 for drunk driving.

Local law enforcement say that by lowering these levels it would help them do their job better. Federal government is pressuring Michigan to change the limit.

If Michigan does not pass the drunk driving standard by October 1, 2003, then the state will loose $9.5 million in federal highway funding.

More important than funding doctors and law enforcement says by lowering the legal blood alcohol limit it would make Michigan roadways safer.

Doctors say that the difference between a blood alcohol level of 0.10 and 0.08 works out to be one drink an hour.

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About Blood Alcohol Levels

  • Over 20 percent (21.8) (3,479 people) of all alcohol related traffic fatalities in 1998 involved drivers at blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels below 0.10.

  • About 2 billion miles were driven at a BAC between 0.08 percent and 0.099 percent. Approximately 41,000 people were injured and over 1,000 were killed in crashes at this BAC level.

  • Crashes in 1993 involving drivers at BACs between 0.08 percent and 0.099 percent cost society $4.6 billion, including $130 million in medical spending. Every vehicle mile traveled at this BAC costs $2.50, including $.80 to people other than the drunk driver.

  • When asked about the number of drinks of their usual alcoholic beverage that they could consume before they should not drive, 74 percent said they should not drive after 4 or fewer drinks. (The equivalent of .06 BAC for an average 170 pound male within a two hour period on an empty stomach).

  • Of those who knew their state's BAC limit, a higher percentage of residents of states with 0.08 limit were correct than residents of states with a 0.10 limit.

  • Driving at BAC levels between 0.08 percent and 0.099 percent pose an excess risk far higher than the mobility ($.30 per mile). Not driving would cost eight times less than driving in this BAC range.

  • Zero tolerance laws reduce young drivers' alcohol-involved crashes by 20 percent.

  • 41 percent of the driving age public said they do not know whether or not their state has a different BAC limit for drivers under the age of 21. Those who thought their state had a lower BAC limit for young drivers were asked to say what they thought it was; only 12 percent of those people cited the correct limit.

  • Even at blood alcohol content levels as low as 0.02, alcohol affects driving abilities and crash likelihood. The probability of a crash begins to increase significantly at 0.05 BAC and climbs rapidly after about 0.08 percent.

  • Among fatally injured male drivers of passenger cars, 42 percent had BACs of 0.10 percent or more in 1994. The percentage for women was 21.

  • The driver, pedestrian, or both were intoxicated in 39.3 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 1994. In these crashes, the intoxicated rate for pedestrians was more than twice the rate for drivers-30.1 percent and 12.9 percent respectively. Both the pedestrian and the driver were intoxicated in 7 percent of the crashes that resulted in a pedestrian fatality.

Source: http://www.madd.org/stats/stat_bac.shtml (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).


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