Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Drunken driving standard set

States pushed toward .08% limit

By Terence Hunt
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — President Clinton signed a bill Monday setting a tough national standard for drunken driving, saying the new legal limit of 0.08 percent will save 500 lives a year and force Americans to take more care when they drink.

        States that refuse to impose the standard by 2004 will lose millions of dollars in federal highway construction money. Nineteen states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia have a 0.08 percent limit. Ohio and Indiana and 29 other states define drunken driving as 0.10 limit blood alcohol content or do not set a specific standard.

        “This is a very good day for the United States,” Mr. Clinton said. He called the new standard “the biggest step to toughen drunk driv ing laws and reduce alcohol-related crashes since a national minimum drinking age was established a generation ago.”

        Mr. Clinton was joined in a Rose Garden ceremony by Millie Webb, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and by MADD members who have lost relatives in alcohol-related crashes. Ms. Webb lost her 4 1/2-year-old daughter and 19-month-old nephew and suffered a broken neck and burns over 75 percent of her body 28 years ago in an accident caused by a drinking driver.

        The bill signing climaxed a fierce three-year battle in Congress.

        The American Beverage Institute, an association of restaurant operators, called the new law “an attack on social drinkers.” It said a 120-pound woman who drinks two 6-ounce glasses of wine over a two-hour period could face arrest and mandatory jail or loss of her license.

        “This law will arrest people who are not part of the drunk driving problem,” said spokesman John Doyle.

        Arguing for the law, MADD said a 170-pound man would have to have four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach, and a 137-pound woman three drinks in an hour, to reach 0.08. Both MADD and the American Beverage Institute cited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies.


        NHTSA cautioned that factors such as sleep and food consumption could affect blood alcohol levels.


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