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[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]
Posted on January 18, 2001:
Maryland Senator Roy Dyson [D-Calvert, St. Mary’s] joined five of his General Assembly colleagues in a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House today to hear President Clinton’s enthusiastic support of a bill that will strongly encourage states to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) in which a driver is deemed to be intoxicated from .10 to .08. If states do not comply with this law, they stand to lose a substantial percentage of federal transportation money.
Maryland currently does not abide by this standard. State law deems a driver to be intoxicated when his or her BAC is .10 or higher.
The bill President Clinton signed today gives states until FY 2004 to adopt .08 BAC as the impaired driving standard or risk losing 2% of their federal highway construction funds, and an additional 2% each year up to an 8% loss by FY 2007. Currently, 19 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have .08 BAC limits. The 19 states are: AL, CA, FL, HI, ID, IL, KS, KY, ME, NH, NM, NC, OR, RI, TX, UT, VT, VA, and WA.
Since joining the Senate in 1995, Senator Dyson has been a strong supporter and sponsor of legislation to lower the state’s BAC limit for drunken drivers from .10 to .08. While the measure has failed during his six years in the Senate, Senator Dyson said this new federal law makes it tougher for Maryland lawmakers to not pass the legislation.
“Today I have a renewed vigor to push for this legislation in the 2001 General Assembly,” Senator Dyson said. “The president was very persuasive today. Statistics don’t lie. The numbers he presented today show that lowering the BAC requirement by .02 saves lives. I have never been able to understand why the majority of my colleagues in the General Assembly can’t see this.”
President Clinton reported that 15,700 people, including more than 2,200 children were killed by drunk drivers last year.
“That’s just a sad, sickening number of innocent deaths,” Senator Dyson
If the number of deaths due to drunken drivers aren’t enough to sway his colleagues who haven’t voted for the bill lowering the BAC requirement, the threat of losing millions of dollars in transportation funding is, Senator Dyson said.
“This (.08) is now the law of the land,” he said. “If we don’t pass this legislation. We will lose valuable federal funding for transportation. And as we all know from this latest rush to secure funding for a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, we need all the federal money for transportation we can get. Outside of education and health care reform, especially universal prescription drug coverage for our seniors, transportation is one of the biggest problems facing our state.
“So, if my colleagues don’t believe changing the law will save lives, maybe they’ll change the law because they stand to lose our state a lot of much needed transportation funding.”
After praising the members of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for their “grassroots campaign” to strengthen drunken driving laws, President Clinton delivered some sobering statistics.
“Alcohol is still the single greatest factor in motor vehicle deaths and injuries,” Clinton said. “This law, .08, is simply a common sense way to help stop that. The science has been clear for a long time. People that have that much alcohol in their blood are too impaired to drive safely. Judgement, reaction times and other critical driving skills are severely diminished. When a driver with a .08 blood level turns the ignition, that driver is turning a car into a lethal weapon.
“Let me say to all of you that, for me, this is a very good day for the United States. This .08 standard is the biggest step to toughen drunk driving laws and reduce alcohol related crashes since a national minimum drinking age was established a generation ago,” the president said. “It is estimated by the experts that have studied it that it will save at least 500 lives every year. How often do we get a chance to begin a good morning and a good week by saving 500 lives a year?
“The law is effective. The National Transportation Safety Administration study found that Illinois, after adopting the .08 standard, reduced the number of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes by about 14 percent. The law is reasonable. It is not, contrary to what some of the propaganda against this said, about just having a drink or two after dinner. There is more involved here. Lowering the limit will make responsible Americans take even greater care when they drink alcohol in any amounts, if they intend to drive, and it should, in any amounts.”
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