Driving while not in fact drunk

by Walter Olson on October 11, 2010

Austin’s police chief wants to criminalize driving on 0.05 blood alcohol — which for many people means a beer or two — and state senator John Whitmire of Houston is sympathetic: “Some people shouldn’t be driving after one drink.” A MADD spokesman applauds, too. [Austin American-Statesman]

{ 16 comments }

1 Platy 10.11.10 at 1:50 am

Some people shouldn’t be driving after no drinks.

2 Monty 10.11.10 at 2:50 am

I am not a fan of alcohol, I don’t drink at all, but as much as I dislike alcohol, I hate slippery slopes even more. And that is exactly what is at work here. When the movement was going to drop DWI from .1 to .08, I bet most people thought that would be it, but then throw in a DWAI or some similar charge for driving at .06, and now they want to go even lower. Is MADD just pulling the numbers out of some body orifice? When the .08 number was chosen, was there a good reason? Or was it just a step in the right direction?

Don’t compromise with anyone who wants to go all the way, they will be back looking for another compromise, and then another, until they have all they wanted in the first place, and your left holding the bag. Settle it once and for all, what does the science say is the appropriate number? And if the science doesn’t have an answer, its time to roll back the whole thing.

3 Scott 10.11.10 at 7:19 am

It’s been argued that MADD is really a prohibitionist society wrapping themselves around a public safety issue.

4 yoshi 10.11.10 at 8:20 am

You can already be arrested if you have zero drinks. You just need to be proven to be under the influence of something. The police have wide latitude here.

And MADD should be shut down. Its original mission is complete. But like most groups of its types – it keeps going on – doing more harm than good.

5 Pete Krawczyk 10.11.10 at 8:47 am

Drivers in Illinois who have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) have a maximum legal limit of 0.04, and they may not test positive for any illegal substance at all. In theory, this is only when driving a “commercial motor vehicle”; in practice, it is for all vehicles. (ILCS 625 5/6?514 and 6-517) Being at or above 0.04 results in the additional loss of CDL privileges for at least one year, in addition to all other consequences for a normal driver.

6 L Nettles 10.11.10 at 9:26 am

There was a scientific reason for dropping the BAC limit from .1 to .08. All the research on intoxication was done with blood serum levels, but the law said blood, the lawyers said blood was whole blood not serum. .08 whole blood is the equivalent to .10 blood serum level bringing the law in line with the research done in the 1930’s in Germany. Hospital BAC testing is done on serum and has to be converted for legal purposes.

7 Ron Miller 10.11.10 at 9:37 am

MADD’s original mission is complete. Only 12,000 families lost someone they love last year in a drunk driving accident. Why have they not pulled out a “Million Accomplished” banner and called it a day?

8 Platy 10.11.10 at 10:22 am

“Hospital BAC testing is done on serum and has to be converted for legal purposes.”

When I do blood warrants the police provide the tubes which they take with them for processing at their own lab. Our own lab reports carry a disclaimer that tox levels are not to be used for legal purposes because of chain of custody issues.

9 KDP 10.11.10 at 10:58 am

“.08 whole blood is the equivalent to .10 blood serum level bringing the law in line with the research done in the 1930’s in Germany.”

I’d reconsider using that type of statistic considering who was in charge of Germany for most of the ’30’s.

10 David 10.11.10 at 11:32 am

This is why I favor actual physical tests for impairment regardless of source of the impairment. We can argue all day about the meanings of various levels of various substances, but the rationale is to make driving safer and that need not be limited to a particular substance at a particular level but to a performance.

11 Samson Isberg 10.11.10 at 2:41 pm

Agree with David – physical test should be the norm. My uncle had Huntington’s chorea and kept his driver’s license for years. Fortunately we lived in a rural environment and could jump in to the fields when we saw him coming. Cold sober he was, but fit for driving – no.

12 John Burgess 10.11.10 at 4:10 pm

The problem with physical tests is that they’re subjectively scored. One cop’s ‘wobbly’ could be another’s ‘solid’, especially if the other’s assessment was of his brother-in-law, fellow cop, or judge.

Of course, requiring that all tests be taped and shown to judges/juries might help resolve the problem. We’d have a ‘community standard’ (‘community’ being defined as ‘this jury’) of what would constitute ‘impaired’.

13 Ps 10.11.10 at 10:22 pm

It will only be a matter of time before the police chief and state senator are caught driving with a BAC more than 0.05 at which point the argument will be dropped.

14 Nezuji 10.11.10 at 11:47 pm

A 0.05 BAC limit for driving has been the law in Australia for as long as I can remember (over 15 years); possibly even since chemical testing was introduced.

15 Dal 10.12.10 at 12:17 am

It was reduced in Australia in stages, it was .08 when I was a kid, then other states went to .05, then we followed. Of course they are now pushing for .02.

The problem with it that low is that it is easily possible to be over the legal limit without feeling impaired (or actually being impaired) and not something you can reliably self-test for before getting into the car.

16 No Name Guy 10.12.10 at 10:56 am

What John said about subjective.

The problem with so much of what passes for law today is that it IS subjective (the whole theft of honest services, for example, or the classic one of the dip congressman saying something to the effect that some BS law was deliberately ambigious so they wouldn’t give a road map for how to evade the law).

What ever else the problem with 0.10, 0.08, 0.05, etc there may be, at least its a clear, unambigious, digital definition of what is impermissable. If your BAC is at or over the threshold, then you’re impaired. If it’s not, then you’re not, at least in the legal definition.

Narrow, bright lines are what makes for understandable law. Of course, lawyers don’t like them….they can’t make big bucks if everyone understands the rules.

Comments on this entry are closed.