New proposal could mean DWI arrest after one drink

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by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist JP HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 14 at 10:21 PM

AUSTIN -- Exactly 25 years ago, a drunk driver hit a bus in Carrollton, Kentucky killing 27 people; most of them children.

“It was the largest of fatalities in an alcohol-related crash in the U.S.,” said Austin MADD member Angela Tidwell.

Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board chose the anniversary of that deadly accident to announce it wants states to lower the blood-alcohol limit from its current .08 to a much lower .05.

“We don't ask that they take away alcohol laws or people stop drinking, we just don't want you to get behind the wheel after drinking,” said Tidwell.

However, there’s been a lot of criticism against the recommendation. Criminal Defense Lawyer Sam Bassett tells KVUE the lower limit is not practical especially for a city like Austin.

“We're already seeing backlogs in the blood testing program. We have festivals, we have lots of venues, lots of music. Somebody can have literally two drinks and be over a .05,” Bassett said.

Those two drinks are two too many for the NTSB which reports drivers have difficulty even at a lower limit.

"Impairment starts with the first drink, by .05 most drivers experience diminished visual function, increased drowsiness and reduced vigilance,” said Deborah Hersman, a NTSB Chairman.

Bassett believes an arrest at .05 is criminalizing what we already consider responsible behavior.

“If you blow into the PBT at roadside and you blow below a point .04 you go home. Now we're talking about convicting somebody," Bassett said.

A conviction that the NTSB says is worth saving a life, but in the end it will be up to each state to decide.

 

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