Tougher DUI penalties could be coming

A study just released by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine is giving a push to efforts by drunk driving activists to lower the threshold for DUI penalties in the United States. The journal article states that lowering the blood alcohol content to .05, combined with other measures, would reduce the number of drunk driving-related deaths.

Approximately 10,000 people die on American roads annually in alcohol-related incidents. Safety officials believe that adopting a series of measures including increased alcohol taxes and limiting times of sale along with lowering the BAC limits would save an untold number of lives. The effort is part of an initiative called Vision Zero, which has a goal of reducing the number of drunk driving deaths to zero.

Additional proposed aspects set forth in the study include the increased use of ignition interlock devices, enhanced enforcement of laws regulating age limits for purchase and providing more access to treatment programs. The report, which is endorsed by the National Traffic Safety Board, acknowledges some successful programs but maintains that a multi-level approach coordinating varied strategies is appropriate.

The proposal to limit hours of sales is expected to draw adamant opposition from merchants and bars that may potentially suffer financial hardship from limiting sales and service windows. Another potential conflict is between urban and rural areas. Urban areas draw significant tax income from nightclubs and are generally serviced by taxis and mass transit while rural areas are disparately impacted by drunk driving; about 48 percent of fatal alcohol-related incidents occur in less populated areas.

Drivers charged with drunk driving have options for defense. A qualified DUI lawyer may examine the case to see whether prosecutors have enough evidence that the individual was indeed driving under the influence. It might be possible to have the charges dismissed if evidence is sparse or was collected in a manner that violated the individual's rights.

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