Tuesday, February 7th, Washington legislators held the first hearing for a bill that would lower the legal limit for a driver's blood alcohol concentration. The new limit sought would be .05% BAC. If the bill is passed, Washington would be the only state in the union with a BAC limit under .08% for non-commercial drivers. The bill is primarily sponsored by Snohomish County Democratic Rep. Jon Lovick, a former Washington State Trooper who oversaw the abolition of drunk driving emphasis patrols - implementing 24/7 drunk driving emphasis instead.
“I pulled my crew together and I said, ‘Lady and gentlemen, we will not have another drunk driving emphasis patrol.' And they looked at me as if I was, they thought I was crazy because they knew how aggressive I was in going after drunk drivers," Lovick said. "And I looked at all of them and I said, ‘Every single minute of every single day that you are in your patrol cars we're going to be on emphasis patrol. We're going out to make a difference.'”
Shelly Baldwin from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports drunk driving arrests were down to 28,000 last year, a staggering drop from the 40,000 figure of a few years ago. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) contend that sobriety checkpoints and tougher IID laws would save more lives than a lower alcohol limit. Another lawmaker brought up the point that a lower legal limit would generate greater costs for the state.
The bill's cosponsor Rep. Brad Klippert, a former police officer, responded, "A local deejay in the Tri-Cities area lost his entire family to a DUI driver. Wife and all of his children. I'm asking you, if that were you, would the first thought that came to your head be, ‘how much is this costing the state?' Would that be the first concern you have or would it be the safety of the citizens of Washington state or your family.”
A legal limit of .05 would mean that the majority of drivers would be limited to consume no more than one drink. A man weighing about 180 pounds could consume about two drinks and still be under the limit, depending on the drink.
Last January, the National Transportation Safety Board considered a federally instituted reduction in the legal limit, also to .05%, “or even lower.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 112 million alcohol-impaired driving trips are made each year. The idea has stirred in certain federal and state agencies for several years now, although a bill has never been passed to its effect. A reduction to .05 was on the NTSB's “most wanted” policies list in 2016 - it is centered around the idea that "impairment begins before a person's BAC reaches 0.08 percent, [and at .08] the risk of a fatal crash has more than doubled.”
A new legal limit could have far-reaching consequences for the population of Washington. Many more people could be roped into DUI charges and tiresome legal battles. If you find yourself charged with a DUI in Washington, you will require an experienced and knowledgeable Washington DUI attorney to aggressively fight for your rights in court. Contact the Law Office of Steve Karimi and get a free consultation of your case today.