The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

24 June 2004

Not as think as you drunk I am

Fritz Schranck notes that Delaware is the only state which has not reduced its too-drunk-to-drive level from 0.10 percent to 0.08. Failure to do so will cost Delaware federal highway dollars, in a process known outside government circles as "blackmail."

Personally, I hope Delaware stands its ground. Both the original 0.10-percent figure and the new, unimproved 0.08 number are purely arbitrary, and no one has shown any evidence that highways are any safer with the tighter limit. In most alcohol-related crashes, the offending driver is well over 0.10 percent; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admits that more than half of DUI busts nab drivers at 0.20, and two-thirds of fatalities involve drivers over 0.15. Dropping the limit from 0.10 to 0.08 was simply an effort to Look Like We're Doing Something and to buy silence from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has grown increasingly hysterical over the years.

The two Delaware politicians who are blocking 0.08 are Senate President pro tem Thurman Adams and Senator James Vaughn. Next time I'm in Delaware, I'll buy them a drink. And then I'll send them home in a taxi, just on general principles.

(Update, 2 July, 8 pm: They've drunk the Kool-Aid. Damn.)

Posted at 8:29 AM to Driver's Seat , Political Science Fiction


I would agree with you on this...tis mere window dressing. And I hope Delaware sticks to its guns.

I have been round long enough to remember the drive through liquor stores while stationed in Tx back in the late 70's. So, yeah attitudes have changed over the years.

And though we need to lean hard on those busted for drunk driving, fiddling with the legal limit...is not the answer, stronger sentencing and enforcing of same is.

Posted by: Guy S. at 8:00 PM on 24 June 2004

Yeah, I don't think there's any advantage to lowering the tolerance level to 0.08 - the real answer is in getting real tough on repeat offenders. And, anyone who kills anyone as a result of driving drunk should never drive again. Period.

Posted by: Deb at 8:42 PM on 24 June 2004

Deb,

The only advantage to lowering the BAC is a financial one. They get a whole new crop of customers.. er.. defendants with which to throw the book at. Plus it lines lawyer's pockets.

Personally, I think they should have raised it to .12 just to thumb their nose at the fed. If you're going to lose highway funding, might as well have some fun with it.

(Delaware only has like one highway anyway.)

Posted by: Ravenwood at 12:45 PM on 25 June 2004

We do have more than one highway. Seriously, we do.

I'm not sure that you're right in imparting the benefit of a reasoned intent to the legislators, and an intelligent stand by them against what seems like a blackmail system of funding legislation that accompanies many federal initiatives. I wish it were so.

The more likely reason is the one cited in the editorial:

The legislation languishes in a committee headed by state Sen. James Vaughn, the conservative Smyrna Democrat. He and Senate President Pro Tem Thurman Adams have problems with the way police would enforce a lower blood alcohol content should motorists test near or on the limit.

This rationale leaves me asking two questions though. The first is, "how do they enforce the BAC agains the present limit?" Would a lowered amount really require that much different a procedure?

The second would be, "Couldn't they do the same thing that police officers in Newark, Delaware have already been doing with a .08 BAC since 2000?"

Of course, they could call the Newark City Council and the Newark Police, and ask how they handled the change. But, that might involve them figuring out how to use the telephone.

Posted by: Bill at 2:44 PM on 25 June 2004

Adams, old as he is, has certainly been trained on the telephone by now.

Still, if the solution is so quickly obtained yet these guys are ignoring it, I'm inclined to believe that they have something else in mind. Of course, this could be due to overexposure to Oklahoma pols. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 3:02 PM on 25 June 2004

Those federal highway dollars are the reason Minnesota caved. They were one of the last three to make the change, I believe.

The law was hard enough to enforce at 0.10, but whatever.

It's all about the Benjamins.

Posted by: Erica at 6:54 PM on 4 July 2004