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DUI standard: None for the road

Special to SEGAZINE

SO YOU’VE gone out to dinner at a fancy restaurant or watched a game at a sports bar. You had a great time with friends and family.

Alongside your meal, you ordered one drink. A glass of wine or a single beer perhaps.

You feel fine and you’re ready to hit the road and head home legally, right?

Maybe not. The National Transportation and Safety Board is pushing Georgia and other states to lower the blood alcohol content level for DUI from the current 0.08 to 0.05. This means, depending on your weight, you could end up cuffed in the backseat of a patrol car after simply one drink.

Drunk driving is against the law. Motorists must be responsible when it comes to alcohol consumption. It’s fairly simple. If you drink, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t drink.

However, DUI laws must be properly targeted, too.

What difference would it make to lower the blood alcohol content level down to 0.05?

It’s likely to mean more arrests. But it’s also possible that those who are arrested aren’t impaired.

Every year in this country, fatal accidents involving drunken drivers take 10,000 lives. According to the NTSB, European countries that have gone to the 0.05 percent standard have seen traffic deaths caused by drunken driving decrease by more than half within 10 years. So the prospect of saving 5,000 lives shouldn’t be automatically waved off.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t endorsed the NTSB recommendation. The managing director of the American Beverage Institute called the recommendation “ludicrous.” He has a point. Lower limits aren’t going to stop hard-core drunken drivers from getting behind the wheel.

The Associated Press reports that a woman of about 120 pounds could possibly register 0.05 after one drink. A man weighing around 160 pounds could register the same after just two drinks.

Georgia’s chapter of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving doesn’t oppose the lower limit, but it’s not pushing it because it believes that it is not politically doable. Instead, MADD believes the focus should be elsewhere, like getting repeat DUI offenders off the street by using their automobiles to test their BAC before cranking the engine. That makes sense, as it targets the true dangers.

In fact, Barry Martin, executive director of MAAD, said, “We are not prohibitionists. We are not interested in eliminating drinking.”

The Associated Press reported that the Leaders of the Georgia Restaurant Association say strict enforcement of existing laws is the best way to ensure public safety, as opposed to casting a wider net to catch motorists who might not be inebriated.

The purpose of DUI laws is to get drunk drivers off the road and to save lives. Cracking down on moderate drinking is worth a look, even if state lawmakers and others may not be ready to swallow it yet.

savannahnow.com.

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