The American Insurance Association (AIA) has commended Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell for signing legislation (SB 8) that reportedly makes significant changes to the commonwealth’s drunk driving laws, including lowering the legal blood-alcohol level for driving under the influence of alcohol from .10 percent to .08 percent.
“This is one of the most important public health, tax and pro-family measures that can be enacted,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “In fact, this legislation is a national model for both treating and punishing drunk drivers, while reducing alcohol-related traffic crashes.”
The bill creates a first-in-the-nation drunk driving law that imposes increasingly harsher penalties on drunk drivers based on their blood-alcohol content (BAC).
The three-tiered penalty system both expands treatment programs and stiffens fines and jail sentences for so-called “hard-core” drunk drivers. The tiers are .08 to less than .10; .10 to less than .16; and .16 and above. Criminal and civil penalties increase with the increasing BAC level.
Under the new law, a motorist with a blood-alcohol level of .16 or higher would receive a mandatory one-year prison sentence upon a third offense, while all drunk drivers would receive 90 days for a third offense, regardless of the blood-alcohol content. The bill’s treatment component would require mandatory alcohol treatment even for first-time offenders in some cases.
This measure is designed to penalize chronic offenders and drivers with high blood-alcohol levels by imposing stiffer penalties. At the same time, the bill seeks to be reasonable by providing for limited drivers’ licenses for first-time offenders to travel to work or treatment programs. The current law has no provision for limited licenses.
“Drunk driving costs Pennsylvanians more than $8 billion in economic losses annually. That adds up to $665 per person or 2.3 percent of the commonwealth’s personal income,” explained Snyder. “The costs of drunk driving are paid by the public through personal tragedy, loss of employee productivity, higher taxes and higher insurance premiums. Seldom can all of these issues be dealt with at one time, but they are in this important legislation. We commend the legislature and Gov. Rendell for this critical and sound action that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.”
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