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WA House committee considers lower legal blood alcohol level

Washington Capitol.Wikipedia..jpg
Courtesy of Wikipedia

If Washington changes to a .05 level, it would be the second in the nation to do so, joining Utah.

Washington may follow Utah in lowering its blood alcohol level for impaired driving.

Washington’s current standard for ticketing drivers is .08, a percentage adopted by every state but Utah, where the legal threshold is .05. The bill’s sponsor, Snohomish County Democrat John Lovick, says he’s convinced the increasing number of traffic-related deaths is justification for lowering the threshold.

During a hearing of the state Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim agreed.

“The vast majority of the population is impaired between an .04 and an .06. This is recognized in most other countries and why their per se levels are .05. Utah was the first state to lower their BAC per se limit to .05 and their remarkable, remarkable results can’t be ignored," she said.

She says alcohol-related accident rates have dropped, something she credits to people changing their behaviors to follow the new law.

Most of those who testified Monday support the lower limit. Lobbyists for bars and restaurants did not, including Josh McDonald from the Washington Wine Institute.

“The legal threshold of .08, which is the current threshold in almost every state in the country, was established as a safe level of consumption, based on science and law enforcement guidance. We have serious concerns that lowering this will hurt our small business owners, like our wineries, that are creating more opportunities for moderate, responsible consumption by adults," McDonald said.

The bill is scheduled for a committee vote on Thursday.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.