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It's time for Ohio to tighten reins on drunken drivers



Published: Wed, August 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio is now in a minority of states that are clinging to an old standard of what level of alcohol consumption determines if a driver is legally drunk.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted a blood alcohol content level of .08 as the level at which a driver can be presumed drunk.

Ohio stubbornly hangs on to the standard of .10, even though lawmakers know that the state must adopt the lower standard by the year 2003 or face the loss of a portion of federal highway money the state receives.

What's needed: The issue is likely to come before the Ohio House when it returns to session this fall. The House and Senate should pass the bill, and Gov. Bob Taft should sign it.

There is ample evidence that the ability of almost any driver is seriously impaired in his or her ability to brake, steer, change lanes, and demonstrate good judgment behind the wheel at the level of .08 . This reality has not been lost on most of the Western world, which has adopted .08.

While the difference between .10 and .08 may not seem large, its effect is. Mothers Against Drunk Driving notes that alcohol-related fatalities dropped from 23,630 in 1988 to 15,786 in 1999. A coast-to-coast lowering of the acceptable BAC level to .08 would save another 500 lives a year.

Expecting a driver to take perhaps one less drink before getting behind the wheel of a car does not seem like an unreasonable demand, given the lives that are at stake.

How much is too much: As MADD points out, a level of .08 is not reached through what most people would consider social drinking. To get to that level quickly, a 170-pound man would have to drink four beers or shots or glasses of wine on an empty stomach within a hour's time.

No responsible person would consume that much alcohol that quickly and then get behind the wheel of a car. No responsible legislator would want to endorse that kind of reckless conduct.

The time has come for Ohio to tighten up on drunken drivers, to send a message that innocent motorists and their passengers should not be endangered by irresponsible drivers who think that they're entitled to one more for the road.

The time has come for the General Assembly to enact a .08 BAC standard in Ohio.




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