Since I quit drinking years ago; I am no longer personally concerned with the DUI limit in Georgia. I do not have an opinion on what the per se limit in Georgia should be. However, from a professional standpoint, I am concerned with DUI limits because many of my clients face charges stemming from being accused of DUI. As you probably already know, I am also a staunch advocate for state sovereignty.
Possible changes to DUI limits by way of blood alcohol content (BAC) thresholds and abuse of federal power may be coming our way soon.
In Georgia, most people know that the per se alcohol limit when operating a motor vehicle is .08 percent. I can actually remember when it was .10 years ago. Those laws were passed by the people of Georgia through our representatives in the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.
Well, it seems that now the federal government wants to get involved with DUI limits throughout the states. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recently recommended that all of the states should lower the threshold of drinking and driving to a BAC of no more than .05 percent. The federal agency believes that the U.S. is too tolerant of “drunk driving.” According to the NTSB, the probability of having an automobile accident when the driver has a blood alcohol content of .05 is half what it is at .08. The NTSB also claims that one third of U.S. traffic deaths are related to alcohol. I have not seen the research to support this and have no opinion on its accuracy.
Citing other countries, particularly Europe, the NTSB says that the U.S. is “behind” these foreign nations by having a threshold for drinking and driving of .08 in all 50 U.S. states. While the NTSB is just an advisory body with no authority to make laws or regulations, it does issue recommendations to states and U.S. agencies.
However, when the federal government wishes to encroach on the rights of the states, it will do so. In the past, Congress has forced NTSB recommendations on the states by requiring their adoption or risk losing all federal highway funds. (Maximum speed limits established throughout the states are a well-known example.)
It is interesting to note that when it comes to calculating how much alcohol will affect your BAC, it is very difficult to judge. But, in general, the difference between .08 and .05 is one to two mixed drinks, glasses of wine or 12-ounce beers over three hours. Much of the variation depends on gender and body size. For example, according to data charts prepared by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Education and Wellness, a 180-pound man could consume four drinks in three hours before reaching .05. A 140-pound woman could have three drinks over the same time period.
As I have mentioned in prior columns, it is always best to simply not consume any amount of alcohol before driving. That solves all potential problems with DUI – alcohol accusations. However, if there are significant changes in Georgia’s DUI laws, such as lowering the per se limit, those changes need to come from the Georgia General Assembly and the Governor. Washington needs to focus on its own problems. Right now, they are almost too numerous to count.