Proposed drunk driving changes stirs debate


POSTED: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:44pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 7:37am

The National Traffic Safety Board wants to make the legal driving limit nearly half of what it is.  

The current level for a driving with the influence arrest is 0.08 blood alcohol level.  The NTSB wants to make it 0.05.  

Some folks are supportive of lowering DWI deaths, but say lowering the legal limit could be complicated.  

"If we keep lowering the level and we keep occupying our officers with 0.05 arrests, then we may not have the resources to respond to other calls to serve," said McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.  

Blood alcohol levels are influenced by a person's body weight.  Two drinks in an hour would push a 180 pound person close to the proposed 0.05 limit.  At 140 pounds, two drinks in an hour could be legally intoxicated.   
"I believe no drinking should happen," Rodriguez said. "But there has to be a balance. We may have to look at additional resources because it would result in more traffic stops... I've got to make up that difference."

Drunk driving kills an estimated 30,000 Americans a year.  McAllen averages around 1,000 DWI arrests a year.  

A lower blood alcohol level has had success overseas. In Europe, drunk driving fatalities have dropped in half since the new law began.  
The Bourbon St. Bar and Grill in McAllen is like many bars. If a customer appears to have too much to drink, a cab or a friend must be called.  

Management is worried about the proposed legal limit.  
"It 's going to affect business in a really harsh way, because 0.05 is almost half of what we have right now," said Bourbon St. General Manager Alex Sierra. "To keep track of who's having more than that is going to be kind of hard."

In Texas, previous efforts to pass stricter laws concerning drunk driving have been largely unsuccessful.  

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