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Lower The DUI Level To 0.05 Percent? Two California Lawmakers Propose Change To Combat Drunk Driving

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Cars drive on Highway 50 in Sacramento.

Two anti-drunk-driving bills are sure to spark major debates this year in the California Legislature.

Assembly Bill 1713 by Asm. Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey) would lower the legal blood alcohol content limit to 0.05, down from the current 0.08.

“If I drank four drinks in an hour, I’d be under this podium,” Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said at a news conference outside the state Capitol on Wednesday after noting it would take him four drinks to exceed the current legal limit. “There’s no way, I believe, I could drive a car — much less, drive it safely.”

Business groups and the restaurant and alcohol industries are expected to make the case that the bill is well-meaning but would not save lives. The American Beverage Institute arguedearlier this year that the measure would merely target “responsible social drinkers who are not meaningfully impaired.”

The other measure, Hill’s Senate Bill 545, would require that everyone convicted of driving under the influence install an ignition interlock device. Under a state law that just took effect this year, the devices are required for all DUI convictions except first-time offenders who were not involved in injury crashes.

The bill is named for Mary Klotzbach’s son Matthew Klotzbach. At Tuesday’s news conference, she said a law like this could have saved her son’s life.

“He is gone because a convicted drunk driver made the choice to drive and drink — this time, on a suspended license, which was meant to keep him off the road,” she said.

Opponents have previously argued that a statewide mandate for all DUI offenses would eliminate judges’ discretion and increase profits for a sparsely regulated industry.

Both bills are expected to face their first committee hearings later this month.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Radio