Drunk driving accidents are not really accidents; they are crimes. They kill thousands of innocent people every year. The National Transportation Safety Board has proposed a solution that I believe is right–lower the legal blood alcohol level from .08% to .05% in hopes of saving lives.
Of course, the NTSB makes only recommendations, not laws. It would be up to Florida’s Governor Scott and our legislature to listen. And naturally there are critics of the proposal–primarily The American Beverage Institute, the freightenly powerful lobby that represents 8,000 restaurants and bars.
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According to Scott Kotler, an experienced DUI defense lawyer and founding member of the Attorney Breakfast Club’s Miami Chapter, “The law states an individual cannot drive a vehicle if they are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a controlled substance to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired. This can be proven without even knowing what the individual’s blood alcohol level is. Florida has passed a limit of .08, at which point there is an inference that those faculties are impaired …if the new limit passes, then that inference will be at .05. That’s about one solid drink (1.5 oz. of alcohol) in a 150-lb. person…so what we are effectively saying is you can’t have one drink and drive. If that’s what we are saying…then why not make it 000? I personally feel .08 is a good cut-off point…”
Like Mr. Kotler, I believe that lowering the legal levels will likely increase the number of citations for driving under the influence, but it won’t eliminate the problem entirely. I have personally represented many victims and families who have lost someone who was killed by a drunk driver. I do not want anyone to experience the pain of receiving a call in the middle of the night from the Highway Patrol. I have written about some of my suggestions on how we can reduce the frequency of alcohol- and drug-related traffic accidents in my blog for the Huffington Post, “Shifting from Prosecution to Prevention for Drunk Drivers.”
I also suggest far stronger preventive methods be introduced, such as installing a steering lock on any vehicle, including motorcycles, owned by a convicted drunk driver to render the vehicle inoperable should the device detect any alcohol on the driver’s breath. Alternatively, a simple app can be developed that would require a certain degree of cognitive proficiency before a car can be started. Even though I don’t drink, I have found that entering my password on my IPAD can sometimes be challenging.
More than 100 countries around the world already have set drinking levels at .05%. Nobody enjoys wine like the Italians, and since 2010 Italy and the other members of the European Union have set their blood alcohol limits at .05%, and as a result have cut DUI-related deaths in half. Florida’s legislature should prioritize our public safety over pub and restaurant profits. Florida should be a world leader in making its citizen safe rather than lagging behind places like Slovakia (.0%) and Sweden (.02%).