House-Senate Conference Committee Pass .08 BAC Provision
On October 3, 2000, in an important bill for public health and highway safety advocates, bipartisan members of a House-Senate conference committee completed work on the fiscal year (FY) 2001 Transportation Appropriations bill. Included in the bill was a modified version of the Senate's .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) national drunk driving standard. Under the modified provision, states would have four years to adopt .08 BAC as their drunk driving standard without incurring penalties. States that do not adopt .08 BAC by 2004 would have their federal highway funds reduced on a graduated scale. The first year (2004) a state in noncompliance would lose 2% of its highway funds, in the second year 4%, in the third year 6%, and in the fourth year (2007) 8%. States that adopt .08 BAC as their drunk driving standard by FY2007 would receive highway funds lost between 2004 and 2007.
Nineteen states, and the District of Columbia, currently have .08 BAC as their drunk driving standard. Kentucky's .08 BAC law went into effect on October 1, 2000. Nearly all other states have .10 BAC laws.
State BAC Laws*
*Source: Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety
A national drunk driving standard of .08 BAC is necessary and reasonable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the average 170-pound male would have to consume more than four 12 ounce cans of beer within one hour on an empty stomach to reach .08 BAC. The average 137-pound female would need to consume at least three cans of beer in one hour on an empty stomach to reach that same level. NHTSA also found that in 1998, 38% of all motor vehicle-related fatalities involved alcohol. This translates more than 15,000 alcohol-related deaths. Lowering BAC limits from .10 percent to .08 percent is an effective method of saving lives. According to a study by Hingson et al., if all states lowered their BAC limits to .08, alcohol-related highway deaths would decrease by 500-600 per year.
For background information on .08 BAC, please view our June 30, 2000 Action Alert at http://www.cspinet.org/booze/08_BAC.htm and our September 30, 2000 Update at http://www.cspinet.org/booze/08_update.htm.