Drunk Driving Laws Could Change

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Drivers could get away with a few more drinks when they get behind the wheel if Michigan lawmakers don't act fast.

The blood alcohol level of .08% was set a decade ago, but that legislation expires in October, and the BAC would go back up to .10% if legislation isn't passed.

The House Criminal Justice Committee held a hearing Wednesday morning where a lot of people against raising the limit made their voices heard.

Judges, attorneys, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Michigan State Police all attended, and they say the data is on their side when it comes to keeping the Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC, limit at .08. Many also spoke about personal experiences.

"I lost a good partner of mine who was a Michigan State Trooper for many years," Michigan State Police Sgt. Dwayne Gill said. "He was killed on a traffic stop by a drunk driver, so these things hit home."

The Michigan chapter of Mothesr Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, represents all those victims.

"There's story upon story of families who are right now dealing with an empty place at the dinner table because of someone else's decision to drink and drive above the legal limit," Executive Director of Michigan MADD Sherry McGee said.

McGee's testimony included a story about a man who killed three people while driving with a BAC of .04, just one example why .08 is already high enough. It's also part of the reason why Representative Andrea LaFontaine (R - Columbus Township) made sure she introduced the bills so it didn't go even higher.

"Think of your children, your friends, your family, think of them being on the road, and if that limit were to go back to being .10 it would allow people to be more drunk and on the roads," Rep. LaFontaine said. "So really, just from a safety perspective, it's really crucial to Michigan."

Plus, the state could lose more than $50 millions in federal funding if the BAC reverts back to .10, and lose lives. Since 2003 when the .08 BAC was enacted, alcohol related driving fatalities have gone down 25 percent.

"Data show that one in three of us are going to experience a drunk driving crash at some point in our lifetime," McGee said. "That's one of the three of us, so anything that we can do to reduce those numbers, we think is important."

Law enforcement said this legislation is their top priority.

"We, as Michigan State Police, are here to save lives," Sgt. Gill said. "We are here to enforce the law, and to protect public safety."

There hasn't been much resistance to the legislation. Most people say it's just common sense, and hopefully something both sides of the aisle can agree on.

The House Criminal Justice Committee is expected to vote on it next week. The bills will still have to go through a House floor reading and vote. Lawmakers said that should happen within the next month.


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