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OHIO Lower limit sought for drunken driving



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A House committee has passed a bill to lower Ohio's legal limit to .08.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

COLUMBUS -- The man who killed Traci Jungkurth's family had a blood-alcohol level that would make it illegal for him to drive in Florida, Illinois or North Carolina today.

But not in Ohio.

That's why Jungkurth, 41, of Westerville, wants the Ohio Legislature to make it illegal for anyone who has a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08 to drive. The current legal limit in Ohio is .10.

"My family was slaughtered because of .08," she said. BAC is the amount of alcohol in a certain volume of a person's blood. If a person has a BAC of .10, alcohol comprises one-tenth of 1 percent of his or her blood.

Jungkurth's husband and 8-year-old son were killed in a car crash in Tennessee in 1996 when the legal limit there was .10. The 22-year-old man driving the other car in the crash had a BAC of .08, Jungkurth said. As a result, he wasn't charged with drunken driving.

Instead, he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sent to jail until this May, when he was released.

"He was drunk enough to kill my family, but not drunk enough to get a DUI," she said.

Uphill battle: Still, Jungkurth and other supporters of lowering the legal limit may have an uphill battle in the state Legislature.

"I'm not a big fan of lowering it," said state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd. Hagan said he feels that law enforcement officials have done a good job of reducing the risk of drunken driving in Ohio using the .10 limit.

State Rep. Kenneth Carano of Austintown, D-65th, said he thinks lowering the legal limit would clog the courts with additional drunken driving cases. He also said that he believes there isn't much difference in the effects of a .10 BAC and a .08 BAC.

"I think that lowering it won't solve the problem," Carano said, adding that he would like to see law enforcement officials do more to enforce the .10 limit.

A bill to lower the legal limit to .08 beginning in October 2003 passed the House transportation and public safety committee in June. It could go to the house floor for a vote when the Legislature returns from summer break in September.

Congress has mandated that every state must lower the limit to .08 by 2003 in order to avoid losing federal highway funding. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have met the mandate.

"We think the funding cut certainly should be an eye-opener," said Judith Mead, executive director of the Ohio chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Campaign: Mead said the organization will start a "grassroots" campaign this fall to encourage the Legislature to lower the limit. The campaign will call for MADD members to talk to their neighbors, friends and members of their community about lowering the limit, she said.

Mead also acknowledged that the push to lower the legal limit has its opponents in the Legislature. She noted that one of the bill's biggest opponents is Senate President Richard Finan of Cincinnati, R-7th.

Finan has said he feels lowering the limit will target social drinkers.

However, Mead said that a 170-pound person would have to drink four cans of beer, or four shots of liquor or four mixed drinks on an empty stomach in an hour to have a BAC of .08.

hill@vindy.com




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