Advertisement

Alcohol, blood and the law

February 09, 1999

This week the Maryland General Assembly takes up the question of whether to lower the legal definition for "driving while intoxicated" to .08 blood-alcohol content, or BAC. For The Herald-Mail, supporting this change is an easy call and state lawmakers shouldn't have any problem with it either.

The most frequently heard argument against this change is that it targets the "social drinker" instead of the habitual abuser who frequently drives with a BAC of 1.5 or more. The truth is that to reach a .08 level, a 170-pound male who hasn't eaten has to consume four beers in an hour, while a 137-pound female must drink three beers on an empty stomach.

In five states where the BAC was lowered to .08, a Boston University study found that fatal crashes were reduced by 16 percent. The same study found that if all states were to reduce their BAC limits to .08, an estimated 500-600 lives could be saved each year, with an accompanying savings of $1.5 billion in costs to society.

Advertisement

As for the the claim that the change would decrease the consumption of alcohol and profits for the restaurant and tavern industry, Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George's, testified that in the 16 states where the lower BAC was enacted, there hasn't been any significant drop in consumption. However, Davis said, there was a significant drop in alcohol-related deaths.

One of the factors on the campaign to make this law effective should be a public-information campaign of the type used by the state of California. Eighty percent of Californians surveyed had heard about the change, which officials there believe contributed to a 12 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities.

Still not convinced? In 1996, 57 Marylanders were killed in crashes involving drivers with BAC levels below the current .10 standard. State officials estimate that a change this year would save at least 23 lives every year from now on. The inconvenience involved in complying with this law - designating a non-drinking driver or taking a cab home when no designated driver is available - shouldn't be a burden to any responsible citizen. Let's change the law and save some lives now.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|