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08 will soon be law

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on March 29, 2001:

Senator Dyson At last, both houses of the Maryland legislature have done the right thing and passed a measure that will save lives and garner our state millions of trasnsportation dollars. Last week, the Senate unanimously approved lowering the blood alcohol level in which a person is deemed intoxicated from .10 to .08. The House of Delegates passed the same bill earlier in the session so only the governor -- who has made this one of his top priorities this session -- has to sign it into law.

Much has been said that we voted for this measure because we were being ďpressuredĒ by the federal government into doing this. By not doing so, we stood to lose millions of federal dollars.

Itís certainly nice that weíll retain this federal funding by passing this measure, but thatís not the reason I voted for this bill. Iíve been a co-sponsor of this legislation well before states that didnít adopt this measure would have been denied federal transportation money.

I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of drunk driving much too often. I have had friends and family killed or maimed by drunk drivers. Driving while intoxicated is one of the most dangerous, reckless and selfish things a person can do. Too many innocent lives are lost because someone drinks too much and then climbs behind a wheel.

I was fortunate to be invited to the White House last year for one of President Clintonís last major bill signings. That day, the president signed a bill that denies substantial federal transportation money to states that donít comply with the federal .08 standard.

At the bill signing in the Rose Garden, President Clinton stated that he wasnít telling people not to drink. He was telling them not to drink, then drive. He then stated that 15,700 people, including 2,200 children were killed by drunk drivers in 1999.

Now, Maryland joins 19 other states and the District of Columbia in passing this legislation. In addition to serving as a large deterrent against those who would drink too much and try to drive, this bill will also secure substantial federal funding Maryland would have been denied had this measure not passed. If we wouldnít have passed this legislation, Maryland would have lost $5.2 million in federal assistance in FY (Fiscal Year) 2004, $10.3 million in FY 2005, $15.6 million in FY 2006 and $20.8 million in FY 2008.

In addition to the .08 measure passing, another important piece of legislation to deter drunk drivers passed. It will soon be legal for prosecutors to tell judges or juries that a driver refused to take a breath test. This is a tactic often used by drunk drivers because it is harder for prosecutors to get a conviction if they donít have evidence of the driverís blood alcohol content. Stateís attorneys throughout the state have heralded this as major legislation that will help them convict more drunk drivers.

Iím not a fan of big government and more laws. But in this case, Maryland legislators did something extremely important.

Critics said it would clog up the court systems, but Iíve heard the exact opposite sentiment from the judges and prosecutors Iíve talked with. Critics have also said that there is no concrete evidence stating that this will save lives. But since this legislation looked like it was going to pass, Iíve heard a lot of people say that for now on, they were going to decline to drink at social functions or that they were going to make sure they had a designated driver if they did. That right there tells me this legislation is deterring drivers from drinking and driving -- and perhaps killing.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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