people having a drink with dinner.05 Making Criminals of Good Citizens

If you live in New Mexico you know drunk driving is a problem. It seems that headlines consistently point to drunk drivers with multiple DWI charges killing someone while driving drunk for the 8th time.

Most of these offenders are well over the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08. Some of these offenders are well into the double digits.

In fact, 70 percent of all traffic deaths related to alcohol involve a driver with a BAC of over .15 BAC.

Why then is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pushing state legislators to pass laws that would lower the level to .05 BAC? A recent study done by a professor at the University of California-San Diego is being touted as proof that the United States should reduce the legal alcohol limit for driving to 0.05.  The problem is-it is junk science. Utah is the first and only state, so far, to pass this extreme legislation?

Lowering the legal limit would turn many responsible, social drinkers into criminals. A 160-pound man could reach .05 BAC by consuming two beers or two glasses of wine in an hour, and a 140-pound woman could be well over the .05 BAC limit by consuming just two as well.

A major concern for restaurants is that guests would pass on having even one drink with dinner to avoid being arrested for the new .05 BAC limit, or worse, they would just stay home. This should be concerning for New Mexico State lawmakers as well since stay-at-home food consumption collects no GRT while meals at restaurants collect and remit substantial GRT.

Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is not advocating for a .05 standard. According to MADD, “we believe there are better, more effective pathways.” Only 2 percent of traffic fatalities involve a driver with a BAC in the disputed .05 to .08 range. Focusing limited traffic safety resources on this group — who contributes little hazard on our roads — is not a productive use of resources.

Parts of the current system are working in NM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decreased drunk-driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways by 51 percent since 1982. In addition, drunk-driving fatalities involving persons under 21 have decreased 80 percent. Something is working. New Mexico had 176 alcohol-involved fatal crashes in 2006 and 103 in 2015.

New Mexico needs stricter enforcement of our laws and stricter DWI laws to solve our problem. Our laws allow for up to 7 prior DWI offenses (check out the NM DWI required poster here) and only 2 years of mandatory jail time after 7 offenses. NM should consider changing our penalties when DWI vehicular homicide only carries a 6 year sentence.

We should not make our good citizens into criminals for having a drink with dinner.

New Mexico has a problem no doubt but lowering the BAC does nothing to solve this problem.