Hawaii would become only the second state in the country — after Utah — to lower the threshold for drunken driving from the current legal limit for blood alcohol level of .08 to .05 under a bill that moved out of a House committee on Wednesday.
At .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, an average-sized adult would need to consume one drink per hour in order to be too drunk to drive. At a blood alcohol level of .05, the same person would only need to consume one drink every 2.5 hours to qualify as a drunken driver.
House Bill 2464 is opposed by the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Institute, which said the bill “will subject many Hawaii residents and visitors to jail time and all the life-ruining consequences of DWI (driving while intoxicated) for consuming one or two drinks prior to driving.”
Ed Sniffen, deputy director for the state Department of
Lowering the blood alcohol level to be legally drunk to .05 will force many people who drink “to find an alternate way home,” Sniffen said.
Drivers who consume more than one drink in a 2-1/2-hour period also would face mandatory administrative procedures that restrict their driving privileges even before they appear in court for separate criminal proceedings.
In a statement, the American Beverage Institute said of HB 2464:
“The vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the state involve drivers with BACs (blood alcohol content) of 0.15 and above — three times the proposed new level. These are the criminals lawmakers need to target with the full force of the law. Not someone who consumes little over a drink with dinner. Research suggests having a 0.05 BAC is far less impairing than talking on a hands free cell phone. Are we now going to jail all of these drivers?”