California Dolphin: statewide California news

The ABI is just plain wrong about .05 blood alcohol content legislation

AB 1713, or Liam’s Law, was introduced by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke to save lives. It’s that simple.
The bill would lower the state’s legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for impaired driving from .08 to .05. Far too many deaths occur because impaired drivers get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. My husband and I know the pain that comes with these tragedies – we lost our 15-month old son, Liam, to an impaired driver. We do not want any other parent or family to lose someone they love.
In a recent opinion piece by the American Beverage Institute (ABI), the organization, which lobbies for the alcohol industry, pushed back on the idea that lowering the BAC from .08 to .05 would do our state any good.
The ABI writes : “Lowering the legal limit does nothing to address the group of high-BAC and repeat drunk drivers who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.”
This posture is another example of the ABI relying on fear mongering tactics and myths to confuse the public and, just as importantly, the California legislators who will be considering bill AB 1713. It is a misleading argument the fails to address what progress would actually be made by lowering the state’s BAC.
Lowering the BAC does in fact have significant benefits.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found drivers with BACs of .05 – .08 are seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers without alcohol in their system.
That is exactly what we hope the law will do – lower the risk for everyone of getting into a serious crash. Whether a driver is a social drinker or a problem drinker is irrelevant. Impairment is impairment. Numerous studies that have been conducted on impairment level conclude everyone is impaired at .05 BAC. Laboratory research shows 30% to 50% decrements in performance at .05 BAC. At .05 BAC, about three drinks in an hour for a man and two for a woman, a driver experiences reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, reduced response to emergency situations and difficulty steering.
The studies of the effectiveness of .05 BAC laws indicate these laws serve as a general deterrent, and they are just as effective in reducing fatalities involving high BAC drivers as low BAC drivers. After the U.S. reduced the BAC legal level from 0.10 to 0.08, there was a 10.4% reduction in alcohol related traffic deaths but no change in alcohol consumption.
Approximately 1,500 lives could be saved each year if the BAC for impaired driving was lowered to 0.05 nationwide, according to the NTSB. On January 1st, Utah became the first state to lower the BAC to 0.05 and similar legislation has been introduced in New York and Oregon.
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Basing arguments on unsupported, biased, and alternative facts is nothing new for the ABI. They tried the same tactics in Utah, but there, the public and legislature were not swayed by the smear tactics and pricey ad campaign.
Every 49 minutes a person is killed by an impaired driver in the United States. In California, we can do something about that. This is especially inexcusable in 2019 as the vast majority of U.S. citizens have smartphones which they can use to call an Uber or Lyft.
Liam’s Law is backed by the facts, research and common sense. Similarly to Utah, Californians can stand up to special interest groups like the ABI and make our state a safer place for all residents. This is why my husband and I are asking state legislators to make the right decision and pass Liam’s Law.
Mishel Eder is the mother of Liam Kowal

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