HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — How drunk is too drunk to drive? For a long time, a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) level has been the standard for driving under the influence (DUI) charges.
But some states are beginning to lower the required BAC level. What are the chances Pennsylvania follows suit?
Pennsylvania State Police reported nearly 19,000 DUI arrests last year, nearly 4,000 DUI crashes, and 87 fatalities.
Unfortunately, that’s just state police. Local municipalities throughout Pennsylvania are yet to release reports, but the Pennsylvania DUI Association keeps the tragic tally.
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“Three hundred and eleven for 2022. There were 311 fatalities,” said Leo Hegarty, the executive director of the Pa. DUI Association.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a decade ago that states lower the legal BAC limit, from 0.08 to 0.05, at which a driver is considered drunk. The board concluded lowering the legal limit for BAC would, “save lives and increase road safety.”
Utah has already lowered the legal limit to 0.05 BAC. New York and Washington are considering changing it.
“If taking it from a 0.08 to a 0.05 would save one life or prevent one injury then as far as the association is concerned it’s well worth it,” said Hegarty.
Most people agree that getting drunk drivers off the roads is important, but one expert says the new proposal is impaired.
“I don’t think any of us are pro-DUI, but I think some of, us or a lot of us, are anti-dumb law,” said Garry Lysaght, a DUI defense attorney of over 40 years. “It’s only being pushed by federal dollars, and junk science, and special interests.”
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Lysaght also insists lowering the legal BAC limit would needlessly tax the criminal justice system.
“I don’t envy the assistant district attorneys that’ll have this increased caseload for people who are capable of safe driving. I don’t envy the police when they have better things to do than to run you or I or anyone in because we had one or two drinks,” Lysaght said.
But extra paper work isn’t the only change the proposal would bring.
“It’s going to be a challenge for that bartender,” said Chuck Moran of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.
Moran represents hundreds of small bars and taverns and says the folks who serve those drinks will have to be re-trained and re-examine their customers.
“Some people will use medical marijuana before coming, or illegal marijuana, so there’s a lot of complications that bartender faces just to make sure patrons are safe when they leave that bar,” Moran added.
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There would be complications if Pennsylvania eventually chooses to lower the legal BAC limit while driving, but nothing as complicated as the fallout from people who’ve overconsumed, killing too many.
Pennsylvania likely won’t be getting into the fast lane of this proposal, as the Commonwealth was among the last states to drop the legal BAC level while driving from 0.1 to 0.08.