There’s mixed reaction in Georgia to a proposal from a federal agency’s call for states to lower their blood-alcohol limits from drivers.
The National Transportation and Safety Board made waves with its call for a 0.05 limit, down from the 0.08 that has become standard.
Georgia’s chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn’t oppose the idea. But executive director Barry Martin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it’s not politically feasible. Martin said the focus should be on initiatives that require drivers convicted of DUI to use automobile devices that test their blood-alcohol levels. The units prevent an ignition from working when a driver is over the legal limit.
“We are not prohibitionist. We are not interested in eliminating drinking,” Martin said.
Leaders of the Georgia Restaurant Association, meanwhile, say strict enforcement of existing laws is the best way to ensure public safety.
“Efforts should be focused on chronic repeat offenders who excessively drink and then drive and not the many thousands of Georgians who enjoy an adult beverage in a responsible manner, with a meal,” said Karen Bremer, the group’s executive director.
If the lower limits became law, it would affect more casual drinkers, particularly those with lower body weights. A woman weighing about 120 pounds could register a 0.05 after just one drink. A man weighing up to 160 pounds would clear that threshold after two drinks.
“We are supportive of penalizing chronic alcohol abusers,” Bremer said. “But we feel strongly that a responsible adult should be able to enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner.”
The federal transportation board said the change could cut DUI-related deaths by about 10,000 each year, according to the newspaper.
There has been a statistically significant drop in highways deaths in Georgia since the lawmakers lowered the limit in 2000.
In 2011, the latest year for available statistics, the number of roadway deaths in the state was about a third lower than the last full year of the old 0.10 limit. The percentage of highway deaths attributed to alcohol-related crashes – 23 percent in 2011 – was 5 percentage points lower than the number in 2000.
“It does make a difference,” Georgia State Patrol Col. Mark McDonough said.
There are other variables, of course. Generally, cars and roads become safer with engineering advances over time. But, McDonough noted, economic struggles introduce an additional factor, as people drink more often and more heavily when they are having a hard time.
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