Washington, D.C. (March 10, 2021)—Today, the American Beverage Institute (ABI)—a national restaurant trade association—highlighted the lack of evidence supporting the Hawaii Senate’s decision to pass SB 754. The proposal would lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving by 40 percent—from 0.08 to 0.05. The reduction would subject many state residents who consumed little more than a single drink prior to driving to imprisonment. The legislation now moves on to the House for consideration.
The American Beverage Institute released the following statement:
The Senate’s passage of SB 754 is a gut punch to the state’s hospitality and tourism industries, and is a poorly targeted approach to improving traffic safety. Only Utah has passed a similar law. Hotels and restaurants are already struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Making criminals out of responsible Hawaii residents and tourists will only make a rebound more challenging. Many people can reach a 0.05 BAC after consuming little more than a single drink—a level at which research shows they are substantially less impaired than when talking on a hands free cell phone. Hardly a level of impairment to warrant going to jail or paying thousands of dollars in fines and increased insurance premiums.
The vast majority of alcohol-involved traffic deaths in Hawaii occur well-above the current 0.08 standard. The average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash is 0.18—nearly quadruple the 0.05 proposal. As with any product, there is a clear distinction between use and abuse. But a .05 arrest level has nothing to do with product abusers. Unlike a majority of their counterparts in the Senate, members of the Hawaii House of Representatives should consider the evidence before agreeing to criminalize behavior that is the current law in 49 states.