The Law Offices of Ossie Brown
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Are we witnessing the start of a .05 BAC era?

The history of drunk driving laws is both complex and ever-evolving. In 1910, New York became the first state to make drinking in driving illegal. Other states soon followed. However, what actually constituted drunk driving was unclear.

In 1938, the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council conducted research that determined a legal limit of .15 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). That initial benchmark for a drunk driving arrest would last decades.

It wasn’t until 1998 that a federal grant “incentivized” states to reduce the .15 limit to .08. Two years later, the U.S. Congress formalized it by making it the national legal limit.

For the National Transportation Board and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), that limit was still too high. Their lobbying effort continued throughout the country. After 17 years of .08 percent BAC serving as the standard for drunk driving, one state has stepped forward to set a new and significantly higher bar for a lower legal limit.

On March 8, Utah legislators approved a measure to reduce the state’s DUI threshold to .05 percent BAC, making their DUI laws the strictest in the nation. They claim that the necessary reduction will save lives by keeping people who have been drinking off the roads.

According to the American Beverage Institute, .05 percent BAC would make a 120-pound man consuming two beers legally intoxicated. That percentage does not account for food consumption and other factors.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill into law. Other states could follow suit as lobbying campaigns to further lower the legal limit continue.

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