Drunk Driving Debate

By: Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick
By: Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick

A freshman lawmaker has introduced legislation to lower the threshold for being a drunk driver, and the Michigan Restaurant Association argues the measure goes to far.

Rep. Jerry Kratz (R-Grass Lake) wants to lower the blood alcohol level from its current 0.10 to 0.08 and changed the levels for impaired driving from its current 0.07 to 0.05.

It's that second part of the plan that has Rob Clifford upset. Lowering the impairment level he argues will result, "in an awful lot of people, who have had one or two beers, being arrested for drunk driving."

Clifford says the restaurants will support the 0.08 proposal but not the other part.

The federal government has threatened to shut off highway dollars to states that do not meet that new standard.

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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.

Has alcohol affected your driving ability?

  • .050% or higher, you most likely are intoxicated, so you should not drive a car.

How to calculate your blood alcohol level?

  • Count your drinks, 1 drink = 1 volume oz of 100 proof alcohol or 1, 12 oz bottle of beer.

  • Use blood-alcohol chart above. Under number of drinks and opposite body weight find the percentage of blood alcohol listed.

  • Subtract the number from the chart above by the percentage of alcohol burned up during the time elapsed since your first drink. (View Chart Below).

    • The remanding number is an estimate of the percentage of alcohol in your blood.

      Sources: West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration and http://www.madd.org/stats/stat_bac.shtml (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) contributed to this report.


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