National drunk driving limit nearer

States must adopt 0.08% standard or lose federal funding

Oct 23, 2000 - President Clinton signed a bill Monday designed to toughen the national standard for drunken driving, forcing states to lower the legal blood alcohol limit or lose million of dollar in federal highway construction money.


Clinton said that the lower limit of 0.08% will save 500 lives per year. "This is a very good day for the United States," Clinton said. He said the new standard is "the biggest step to toughen drunk driving laws and reduce alcohol-related crashes since a national minimum drinking age was established a generation ago."

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have a 0.08 percent limit. Thirty-one states define drunken driving as 0.10 limit blood alcohol content or do not set a specific standard.

States that fail to adopt the 0.08 standard by 2004 would lose 2% of their highway money. The penalty would grow by an additional 2% each year up to 8% by 2007. States that adopt the standard by 2007 would be reimbursed for any lost money.

The American Beverage Institute, an association of restaurant operators, called the new law "an attack on social drinkers." It said a 120-pound woman who drinks two 6-ounce glasses of wine over a two-hour period could face arrest and mandatory jail or loss of her license.

MADD contends a 170-pound man would have to have four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach, and a 137-pound woman three drinks in an hour, to reach 0.08.

"This law will arrest people who are not part of the drunk driving problem," said ABI spokesman John Doyle. "But more, this law in a lot of ways is leaving many Americans to believe that the drunk driving problem has been addressed and nothing could be further from the truth."

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