Some key Indiana legislators don’t expect the state to adopt a federal safety board’s recommendation that the threshold for drunken driving be cut nearly in half.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in its proposal last week that drunken-driving deaths could be reduced if states lowered the current 0.08 blood-alcohol level for driving to 0.05 percent.
State Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, pushed for more than a decade for the law that lowered Indiana’s drunken-driving level from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent in 2001. Wyss said it would be “nearly impossible” to bring the level to 0.05 percent.
“It’s an effort I would not undertake again,” Wyss told the Evansville Courier & Press.
House transportation committee Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said he didn’t believe lawmakers would react favorably to an appointed federal board trying to press for changes in state laws. The NTSB recommended federal officials established “incentive grants” designed to encourage states to adopt the lower threshold.
The threshold change was one of nearly 20 recommendations made by the board, which also included measures to ensure more widespread use of use of alcohol ignition interlock devices. Those require a driver to breathe into a tube, much like the breathalyzers police ask suspected drunken drivers to use.
Soliday told Times of Munster that before he would push for the lower drunken-driving standard, he wants more research showing that would be the best way to reduce crash deaths.
“I think before we go running off and introducing law, because somebody suggested we should be blackmailed, let’s look at the data and see what’s most effective and with what do we get the most reduction in alcohol-related injuries,” Soliday said. “Some of that may not need a law passed.”
Terri Carl, who owns Leroy’s Tavern on the west side of Evansville, said she believes less drunken driving depends on people taking responsibility for their actions.
“Lowering the limit of alcohol is not going to affect the way people drink or eat,” she said. “It’s them making rational, conscious decisions about getting behind the wheel.”
An 0.05 percent blood-alcohol level is about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds and two drinks for a 160-pound man. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol in most studies.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams said a lower limit would put more people in jail, but he’s not certain it will keep drunken drivers off the road.
“I’m not sure that it creates any more of a deterrent to not drive or if it’s just more people are going to go to jail that we catch,” he said.