Bill would lower legal blood alcohol level for drunk driving to 0.05 percent | Eastern North Carolina Now

By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 9, 2023

Will North Carolina become the second state in the nation to lower the legal blood alcohol level for drivers from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent?

That’s the hope of Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain), who introduced House Bill 148 late last month, and of national public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Transportation Safety Board. Currently, only Utah has made the change recommended by the NTSB a full decade ago.

Clampitt says it’s time for North Carolina to follow suit.

“Two beers nowadays ain’t like it was when I was growing up. It’s got up to 14 percent by volume,” he told ABC News 13.

The legal BAC limit was lowered from 1.0 to 0.08 24 years ago. The CDC says the average adult would have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 after consuming about three standard drinks within an hour’s time and as a result could experience reduced coordination, difficulty steering and reduced response to emergency situations. It estimates that 1,790 lives could be saved each year if all states adopted a 0.05 BAC limit.

“This bill is plain and simple common sense,” says the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Statistics show that across the country one person dies every 45 minutes in a drunk-driving crash. Why would we not want to reduce that number, especially given the positive results we’re hearing from Utah?”

The 0.05 BAC law there was associated with an 18 percent reduction in the motor vehicle crash death rate per mile driven during the first year after it went into effect. Opponents of the Utah law feared it would lead to skyrocketing impaired driver arrests that would overburden the courts or that it would decrease tax revenues from alcohol sales. But that hasn’t been the case, according to Ellen Pitt, a member of the Western North Carolina Regional DWI Task Force.

“When Utah signed it into law, they gave the state a year to adjust. We waited and watched, and when the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration came out with their report, what happened was none of the negative impacts people feared happened,” Pitt told The Smoky Mountain Times. She says her question for lawmakers will be “how could you not support a life-saving endeavor that has no negative consequences?” 

Representatives of the task force are expected to go to Raleigh on March 30 to promote the bill. Clampitt has also received support from the nonprofit National Safety Council, the newspaper reported.

“Your legislation is not about stopping responsible alcohol use but encouraging and educating drivers to make safer choices when they drink. … Reducing the legal BAC limit to 0.05 will help us address one of the most dangerous – yet completely preventable – road safety risks and save lives,” Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO, wrote in a letter to the lawmaker.

The bill, co-sponsored by Republicans Edward Goodwin (Chowan), Keith Kidwell (Beaufort), Jarrod Lowery (Robeson), Ben T. Moss (Moore) and Bill Ward (Camden), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. If it receives a favorable vote there, it will move to the Transportation Committee and on to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.

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