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Bill proposes lowering legal BAC driving limit to .05 percent

Posted at 7:20 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 22:20:18-05

In 2018, the California Highway Patrol reports a total of 440 DUIs in the San Luis Obispo area. Across the nation, someone is killed every 49 minutes in a drunk driving accident.

In an effort to bring those numbers down to zero, California is considering adopting the nation’s strictest drunk driving limit, lowering the legal limit from .08 percent to .05 percent. Commercial drivers already have a .04 percent standard.

Assembly Bill 1713, also known as Liam’s Law, was proposed after a 15-month-old boy named Liam was killed by a drunk driver.

“People, when they go out and drink, they think, ‘I can only drink so much because I can’t hit that .08 percent limit,’ but the reality is any amount of alcohol you put in your system can impact your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery,” said Frank Warren, a prevention specialist with San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health.

How many drinks would it take for a .05 percent BAC? Health experts say it depends on who you are. For some, that could mean just one drink.

“We try to encourage people to understand their gender, number of drinks they’ve had, amount of time they’ve been drinking, their weight, etc. All of those things play into how their body absorbs alcohol and creates that BAC,” Warren said.

The bill wouldn’t change much for law enforcement.  They’re still looking for unsafe driving, whatever the BAC level is.

“You’re still going to see the same things at a .05 that you would see at a .08. You’re going to see unsteadiness inside a traffic lane or maybe running through a red light,” said Sgt. Robert Cudworth, San Luis Obispo Police Department.

The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that lowering the threshold from .08 percent to .05 percent in every U.S. state would save 1,500 lives a year nationwide.

The American Beverage Insitute opposes lower DUI thresholds, saying AB 1713 is well intended but would do little to save lives. Instead, a press release says, the policy would criminalize moderate and responsible drinking.