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When Will Michigan Have a .05 Legal Limit for Drunk Driving?

May 7th, 2018 DUI DUI Stops OWI When Will Michigan Have a .05 Legal Limit for Drunk Driving?

Michigan is likely to have a .05 legal limit for drunk driving within the next five years. This is because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun pushing a .05 legal limit at the national level.  Once a .05 legal limit is adopted as national policy, the federal government will use highway funds to force all states to lower their legal limits to .05.  Michigan will capitulate to this new lower legal limit, just as they did in 2003 when the legal limit was lowered from .10 to .08.

The latest round of NHTSA’s efforts toward a national .05 legal limit is contained in its publication entitled:  Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities: A Comprehensive Approach to a Persistent Problem.  This publication first sets forth their definition of the problem, which is alcohol-related traffic offenses, and then details their proposed solution, which includes a lower legal limit of .05 combined with increasingly aggressive law enforcement practices, including roadblocks.

NHTSA’s initial statement or premise is that:

Alcohol-impaired driving is a growing public health problem that transcends the transportation, law enforcement, and clinical care systems. Despite its persistent nature, the problem is not intractable. There are many existing evidence-based and promising strategies to address alcohol-impaired driving; however, a coordinated, multilevel approach across multiple sectors will be required to accelerate change. This report presents these interventions and opportunities.

NHTSA then proposes a “multi-faceted” approach which they believe is necessary to get the Nation to “Vision Zero,” meaning zero traffic fatalities.  The “partners” in this multi-faceted approach are listed by NHTSA to include government agencies, car manufacturers, auto insurers, advocacy organizations, state and local public health agencies, technology companies, healthcare systems, clinicians, employers, alcohol retailers, wholesale distributors, alcohol producers, the hospitality industry, and law enforcement.

According to NHTSA, the effectiveness of this all-encompassing approach will be enabled by new legislation in each state. Such legislation will mirror current laws applicable to the 0.08% legal limit and will including such things as use of sobriety checkpoints, administrative license revocation and penalties for refusing preliminary breath tests or blood tests that are equal to or greater than penalties for alcohol-impaired driving offenses. Basically, NHTSA proposes leaving everything else intact except the legal limit, which will be reduced from .08 to .05.

NHTSA proposes that the effectiveness of this .05 legal limit will be enhanced by efforts to publicize the new 0.05% legal limit through mass media campaigns and strong sustained law enforcement efforts. Other suggestions and goals proposed by NHTSA include:

  1. Increasing Alcohol Taxes – NHTSA believes “alcohol is the new tobacco” and therefore taxes must be increased “significantly,” meaning by at least 30%.
  2. Imposing Policies to Reduce Availability of Alcohol – this would include such “common sense” measures as eliminating sales at gas stations and drive-through retailers.
  3. Controlling Alcohol Advertising and Eliminate Under Age Sales
  4. Requiring Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety – this would include but not be limited to Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID), and other types of technology that would be mandatory, just as seat belts are now mandatory.
  5. Beginning Mass Media Advertising – to educate citizens about dangers of alcohol use and impaired driving.
  6. Increasing Sobriety Checkpoints and Increased Patrols
  7. Encouraging Doctors and Hospitals to Collect Alcohol Use Data from Patients – and then steer appropriate patients into appropriate alcohol treatment.

One is left to wonder if a similar reduction could be obtained by doing all of the above except lowering the legal limit to .05? Also, it’s worth noting that what NHTSA is calling for in addition to the .05 legal limit, together represents an enormous increase in governmental power as well as a significantly increased intrusion into the average citizen’s life.  As with many other things, the question may become how willing citizens are to give up freedoms in exchange for the perception of safety.  Either way, it’s likely that Michigan will become a .05 state in the very near future.