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Amid Alcohol-Related Traffic Death Rise, States May Tighten DUI Limit

Alisa McMorris totes a wagon filled with leaflets and a picture of her son Andrew, who was killed by a drunken driver in 2018, in New York's state capitol. McMorris, 49, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is pressing legislators to lower the legal threshold for what constitutes driving under the influence of alcohol. “Vehicular law in New York and nationally needs work so we can protect not only ourselves but everyone else on the road,” said McMorris, whose son, 12, was fatally struck while hiking on a road with his Boy Scout troop. Her lobbying effort is part of a campaign in several states to set the BAC, or blood alcohol level, at which a person can be charged with drunk driving to .05. In the U.S., most driving-while-intoxicated or driving-under-the-influence laws are set at .08, reports the Wall Street Journal. Utah is the only state with a .05 law, which took effect at the end of 2018. Legislation to follow suit has been introduced this year in six states, the most ever, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. This month, the Hawaii Senate passed it for the third consecutive year; it has never been voted on in the House. The Washington state Senate held its first hearing on a bill, which has the support of Gov. Jay Inslee. New York City Mayor Eric Adams endorsed a proposal. Traffic deaths in Utah declined after the blood alcohol level for driving while intoxicated was lowered. Under the proposals, two standard drinks per hour—or perhaps fewer—could lead to a DWI or DUI charge. A standard drink could be a 12-ounce beer with 5% alcohol by volume, or a 5-ounce glass of wine, according to the National Institutes of Health. Rates of intoxication vary by person. Associations representing restaurants lobbied against the bills, saying they could put jobs at risk. The push comes amid a national rise in alcohol-related traffic deaths that began in 2020. There were 11,654 fatalities that year in motor vehicle traffic crashes in which at least one driver was impaired by alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 14.3% increase from 2019.


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