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CA considers lowering the limit for a DUI from .08% to .05% BAC

Blood Alcohol Concentration (B.A.C.)

Blood Alcohol Concentration

California’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws were last changed in 1990 to state that “It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”[1] All that could change with a new bill currently introduced to the California Assembly. Kevin Modesti writes an excellent article examining the issue.

According to estimates, reaching .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) takes four drinks for an average-size American man and three drinks for an average-size American woman. Reaching .05% BAC would take three drinks for an average man and two for an average woman. Smaller people need fewer to reach the same blood-alcohol concentration.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, (D-Marina del Rey of the 62nd District) introduced Assembly Bill 1713 which would lower the threshold for driving under the influence to .05 percent blood-alcohol content from the current .08 percent. The bill has been named “Liam’s Law” in honor of a year and a half old boy who was ran over as his teenage aunt pushed his stroller across the Street.

The bill, AB 1713, is called Liam’s Law in honor of a 15-month-old boy who in 2016 was struck and killed by a drunk driver as his 15-year-old aunt pushed his stroller across a Hawthorne street. Liam’s parents, former mixed martial arts fighter Marcus Kowal and his wife Mishel Eder, have crusaded for a lower legal alcohol limit as one way to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths in California. “I’m a mother of a 4-year-old,” Burke said in a phone interview to The Daily Breeze. “So, obviously, it touched me personally.”

Does the bill punish responsible drivers?

Proponents of the bill argue that lowering the limit will decrease DUI related traffic fatalities by serving as a deterrent to people driving drunk in the first place.

Opponents of the bill say that in reality, the real problem is “high level” drinkers and repeat drunk driving offenders. Jackson Shedelbower, spokesman for the American Beverage Institute, which opposes lower DUI thresholds, said AB 1713 is well-intended but would do little to save lives. “But in reality it’s not tough on drunk driving. It’s punishing moderate, social drinkers. It’s focusing traffic safety resources away from people who are the real problem toward people who aren’t the problem.” Shedelbower said “high level” drinkers and repeat drunk-driving offenders cause most alcohol-related collisions. He said, for a driver, .05 percent blood-alcohol content is less impairing than talking on a hands-free cell phone and that .05 percent is so low that some people could reach it after only one drink. If this was the case, police would feel justified in testing anyone with alcohol on their breath.

Less alcohol = Less Collisions?

A .05 standard for DUI is advocated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which forecasts that lowering the threshold from .08 to .05 in every U.S. state would save 1,500 lives a year nationwide. That’s similar to a 10.4 percent reduction in alcohol-related traffic fatalities cited by advocates since states lowered the standard from .10 to .08 starting in the 1980s. Utah became the first state to implement a .05 limit on Jan.1,2019 and similar bills have been introduced in New York and Oregon.

Fortunately, within the year statistical data from the amount of alcohol related collisions in Utah to last years data and test the theory as to whether decreasing the permissible alcohol concentration under the law results in less people actually drinking and driving.

Are Alcohol Sensing “Ignition Interlock Breathalyzer Devices” the Answer?

Jackson Shedelbower questioned data that suggests cutting the DUI threshold to .08 saved lives, saying safer cars and better education about drunk driving are keys to fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths. The American Beverage Institute spokesman said his alcohol-industry trade organization favors other efforts to fight drunk driving, such as stepping up enforcement of ignition interlock device “breathalyzer” requirements. In California, an ignition interlock breathalyzer device requirement for most DUI offenders kicked in on Jan. 1., 2019. The ignition interlock breathalyzer device costs approximately $200.00 to install and $70.00 per month to maintain.

AB 1713 is currently under examination in the Committee on Public Safety and may be read here:


[1]California Vehicle Code section 23152(b)