Lowering the Delaware DUI Limit
Lowering the Delaware DUI Limit to .05
March 6, 2018
The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that Delaware and other states consider lowering the DUI BAC (blood alcohol content) limits from .08 to .05.
To put this in perspective, under the current threshold, on average, a female weighing 140 pounds could have two drinks in an hour before reaching the threshold before reaching the Delaware DUI limit. Under the new threshold, she could have only one. Meanwhile, a 180 pound man could have slightly less than four drinks and still be under the current Delaware DUI limit, while at the .05 level, he could have only one. A drink is considered 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
The argument made by the NTSB is a noble one, that reducing the Delaware DUI limit would reduce DUI related deaths. However, practically speaking, would this change have any measurable effect? Remember, this is the same argument the NTSB made to get states to lower the threshold for a “per se” DUI from .10 to .08. Many question whether the reduction in BAC limits have had any appreciable effect in reducing DUI related deaths. There are even some skeptics that suggest lowering the BAC does nothing more than increase revenue for the state and its contractors and create the opportunity to proclaim political pronouncements of cracking down on drinking and driving. Both sides of the argument can cite statistics to support their position, but the question still remains, will reducing the Delaware DUI limit, level reduce DUI related deaths? If so, at what costs?
The NTSB can rightfully argue that every potential DUI related fatality is worth saving. This does not, however, diminish the counter-argument and the practical implications of devoting limited resources to those least likely to cause a DUI related fatality, i.e. moderate social drinkers. How many Delaware DUI related fatalities involve those drivers between a .05 and .08 BAC compared to those with BACs above a .15? Do additional resources devoted to this segment dissuade the driver who is a .15 and above from getting behind the wheel? If alcohol-related deaths are substantially more likely to involve those with higher BAC’s, where should we focus our resources and law enforcement efforts?
Ronald D. Phillips Jr.