ABI: Maine Blood Alcohol Bill All Wet; Jump in Insurance Rates Possible

April 1, 2005

A bill to reduce Maine’s legal threshold for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving to .04% will criminalize responsible adults and is an extreme departure from where the focus on drunk driving should be, according to American Beverage Institute (ABI) executive director John Doyle, in recent testimony before the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

LD 1166 is reportedly unlikely to make Maine’s roads safer as lower BAC levels have no effect on the high BAC and repeat offenders
who are the source of today’s drunk driving problem. Studies by state and federal government agencies have reportedly reached similar conclusions. According to the ABI, these product abusers routinely flout current law — lowering the BAC arrest threshold won’t change the behavior of these high-risk drivers.

“The average BAC of a driver involved in a fatal crash in Maine is 0.18%,” Doyle said. “At more than twice the current legal limit and over four times this proposed new limit, these drivers are already flagrantly violating the law. Radicalizing that law makes little difference to them.”

Rather than focusing on targeted enforcement efforts against high BAC drivers and repeat offenders, LD 1166 will reportedly criminalize responsible adults that pose no threat to traffic safety. If stopped at a roadblock, a 120-pound woman having just one glass of wine before driving would reportedly be subject to arrest, loss of license, jail time, and thousands of dollars in fines, legal fees and insurance rate increases. Yet, none of this will reportedly impact highway safety in

Additionally, to put the lack of impairment at .04 into perspective, ABI
pointed to studies from the University of Utah, the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere which show that drivers using a hands-free cell phone are more “impaired” than drivers at .08% BAC.

“When it comes to reducing drunk driving fatalities and injuries and
improving highway safety, this bill completely misses the mark,” Doyle said. “Maine should focus on the root of today’s drunk driving problem and not seek to criminalize safe, responsible and socially acceptable behavior.”

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