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Opening Arguments

.08 or .05?

British Columbia tightened its driving-while-impaired law in 2010 to make a BAC as low as .05 an offense, and they say the results have been significant:

Automobile crashes declined 21 per cent, crash-related hospital admissions dropped 8 per cent and crash-related ambulance calls fell by 7.2 per cent. Based on those statistics, there were an estimated 84 fewer fatal crashes, 308 fewer hospital admissions and 2,553 fewer ambulance calls for road trauma each year.

Since we dropped our DUI level from .10 to .08 in Indiana, there has been some pressure for us to go down to .05 -- not a lot yet, but it's there. That got me to wondering if .05 would kill the restaurant and bar industries here. That claim was made for .08, but it dodn't exactly happen. This is how many drinks it takes to get to .05:

GENERAL RULE OF THUMB:  As a general rule, disregarding things like individual weight, sex and personal metabolic rate, 2 standard drinks (see definition below), consumed during the first hour of drinking, will increase a person's level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to approximately .05% . . . If you continue drinking one standard drink per hour after that, then your blood alcohol level should remain very near .05%

[. . .]

STANDARD DRINK, DEFINITION:  For use in making calculations, it would be generally correct to say that the typical American beer, with a volume of 12 fluid ounces, and an alcohol content of 5%, is approximately equivalent to an average 5 ounce glass of wine or 1.25 ounces (typical shot) of whiskey; and any one of the three could be considered a standard drink.

"Two drinks the first hour" should cover most people having a meal in a restaurant, and if youo're going to be there longer than an hour, go ahead and have that after-dinner drink. I don't think that's going to break the average drink-serving restaurant. It might be more problematic for bars, but I guess I'd rather have them serving a few drinks to a lot of people than a lot of drinks to a few people.

 I've had this argument a lot of times with my fellow libertarian acquaintances. There is a difference between laws mandating seat belts or motorcycle helmets that exist only to protect the individual operator from his own stupidity and laws against impaired driving that inhibit people from hurting others. As long as there are roads, there have to be rules of the road, and trying to keep people who shouldn't be driving off the road seems reasonable to me. Now, maybe .05 is too low, so that's worth arguing about. But do we ned to keep going around and around about whether the state should even be setting such limits?