Changing DUI laws don’t address the real issues

We need to increase enforcement, not lower BAC levels.

In the online article “Effort begins to lower the legal limit for driving drunk” (published Jan. 17), I know the word “drunk” is more eye-catching than intoxicated, but by definition, inaccurately presumes “a state affected by alcohol to the extent of losing control of one’s faculties or behavior”.

Many people with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08% are not drunk, to the point of “diminished control” — they are “under the influence” as defined by a somewhat arbitrary BAC limit.

The proposal to decrease the BAC level defining DUI to reduce fatalities is questionable, and at the very least not supported by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission report cited in the article. I am not questioning the need in decreasing DUI deaths, but like banning firearms or passing laws that affect everyone in an attempt to control the few, the approach seems to be imposing a “feel good” law to make voters think you are doing something beneficial when in fact you’re ignoring the real problem.

Page six of the report shows a significant number of fatalities are due to not using seat belts, with no indication that alcohol was involved. Page seven addresses pedestrian fatalities, again with no mention of alcohol. Page eight speaks to the cultural, psychological and familial issues which are statistically huge but not addressed by the proposed BAC change.

Page 10 is meaningful and relevant. It shows that all BAC-involved traffic fatalities in 2021 due were just over half the number in 1996 (with hundreds of thousands more vehicles now on the road) and up about 26% from the lowest, 2012-2014, three year period.

The most significant data is presented on page 13, which if I read it correctly shows that while fatalities increased almost 25% from 2019 to 2021, enforcement via traffic citations were down 43%. Is there a relationship between decreased enforcement and increases in incidents? Do people commit more crimes when they have no fear of being held responsible? Hmm.

Missing from the report are the actual BAC levels for fatality-involved drivers. Were they 0.08% or 0.20%? No one knows. How many of those lives were taken in accidents by drivers in the BAC 0.05% – 0.08% range, or were they 0.10% – 0.20%? Will reducing the level save a single life? From the data presented as justification we can’t tell.

It seems that page 13 is the only significant thing that has changed and should be the first thing corrected. If officers can’t or don’t enforce the BAC 0.08% laws, what makes us think lowering it to 0.05% will improve anything? The proposal “sounds good” if you don’t think too much about the facts and justification.

Instead of thinking up more laws to reduce the rights of everyone, how about concentrating on more police funding, more traffic stops, more sobriety check stations, and appointing judges and prosecutors that will keep repeat offenders off the streets?

Harold Borland

Bonney Lake