Lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05 BAC will do little to save lives; instead, the policy would criminalize moderate and responsible drinking

Washington, D.C. (February 27, 2019)—The American Beverage Institute strongly opposes legislation that was recently introduced in the California legislature to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05 BAC—a level that can be hit by a 120 pound woman after consuming little more than a single drink.

Although well-intentioned, AB 1713 diverts limited traffic safety resources away from the high-BAC and repeat drunk drivers who are responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Nationwide, 92 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths involve someone with a BAC of 0.10 or above. Moreover, the average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash in California is 0.18.

Jackson Shedelbower, communications director of the American Beverage Institute, released the following statement:

The tragedy prompting this legislation is heartbreaking and the passion demonstrated by the Kowal family directed towards fighting drunk driving is a sentiment ABI applauds. However, lowering the legal limit from 0.08 to 0.05 BAC is not an effective solution. It’s clear that the real drunk driving problem isn’t derived from those who decide to enjoy a drink or two over dinner.

Rather, high-BAC and repeat drunk driving offenders are responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic deaths. These are the criminals whom traffic safety policies should target. Yet, even in California, fewer than one-third of repeat drunk driving offenders actually installed a mandatory in-vehicle breathalyzer when the state’s current ignition interlock law was in its pilot phase. Real change can come from improving ignition interlock compliance amongst these dangerous drivers.

We all want to save lives, but diluting limited traffic safety resources by targeting moderate and responsible social drinkers who are not meaningfully impaired with a .05 law will not accomplish that goal.

In Depth on the Issue

Lowering the Blood-Alcohol Arrest Level

ABI strongly opposes lowering the blood-alcohol arrest level. The move is an attack on the restaurant and hospitality industries and converts responsible consumers into criminals. Don’t allow your state legislature or municipality to be fooled by a false narrative linking a lower BAC arrest threshold with increased traffic safety. Stand…
More on Lowering the Blood-Alcohol Arrest Level →

Get ABI Email Updates

Sign up and get updates on the critical updates on alcohol policy that affect your business.