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So Peter Coors was arrested for driving under the influence in May. He was one block from his home, rolled through a stop sign and blew a .088 on the breathalyzer. The legal limit is now .08. Color me unimpressed. There was no accident nor any indication Coors posed an actual threat to anyone else on the roadway. Until 2004 when Colorado bowed to the pressure of the federal government at the insistence of the MADD crowd and decided to withhold federal funds from states that did not lower their DUI threshold from .1 to 0.08, Coors would have been guilty only of a DWAI. Coors had the good sense to issue a statement in which he apologized and didn’t make excuses. That’s fine politically, but I’d rather he addressed the reality:
A .08 percent federally mandated blood alcohol content standard is textbook feel-good public policy. It will make elected officials appear they have cracked down on drunk drivers–and thus give them an effective issue to use in November’s elections–but in reality a lower BAC limit will do very little to make the nation’s roads safer. The campaign against drunk driving is indeed a noble cause, but it will not be aided by yet another unnecessary federal mandate.1 Year of 5280 for justSubscribe Today »
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Though no one defends drunken drivers or suggests abandoning the campaign against them, the states say federal officials have not shown that 0.08 percent laws save lives. Critics say the tougher laws weaken the emphasis on catching hard-core drunks who cause the most deadly crashes and saddle states with the costs of prosecuting tens of thousands of additional violators.
Some suggest lowering the threshold from .1 to 0.08 make the roads less safe, not more safe. Lowering the limit to 0.8 is in reality just a step towards zero tolerance, and we know how that policy is a failure. It’s easy to make Peter Coors the latest poster boy in the war against drunk driving. Perhaps too easy.