Should Illinois follow the recommendation of national safety experts to change the legal definition of drunk driving from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent to .05 percent? This topic will be argued in many forums over the next few years.
How Fast Is the National Drive Toward .05 Moving?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first recommended reducing the legal blood-alcohol limit to .05 in 2013. A January 2018 report sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now strongly supports this change.
As of April 2018, only Utah has enacted the .05 standard, effective at the end of 2018. Other states such as Delaware, Hawaii, and Washington are considering it.
For perspective, it took 13 years from the time the national safety agencies first recommended the shift from .10 to .08 in 1992 until the last state adopted it in 2005. Illinois made the change to .08 in 1997, five years after the initial recommendation.
What Is the Rationale for a .05 BAC Limit?
The 2018 NHTSA report cites numerous studies published since 2000, many done using driving simulators, that all agree: at .05 BAC, drivers show definite signs of impairment and the risk of serious injuries and fatalities was far higher than at .00 BAC. The NHTSA further argues that a .05 limit has been shown to be an effective policy for reducing alcohol-impaired driving injuries and fatalities in other developed countries, listing Australia, France, Germany, and Italy as examples.
Is There Much Support for .05 in Illinois?
So far, there has not been much, if any, support for the .05 standard in Illinois. But that could easily change in a few years, if more states pass “.05 is DUI” laws or if the federal government threatens to withhold highway funds, as happened in 2000, to pressure states to enact .08 laws.
Opposition to .05 comes from a number of angles. Some question whether the body of research is strong enough yet to mandate this change, knowing that once a law like this is passed, it is not easy to reverse. Others reasonably question how much safer the roads would really become, relative to the cost to the public. Some would argue that driving at a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 is probably no worse than someone who drives while sleepy or angry. Others fear that they could be arrested over a glass or two of wine at supper.
It must be noted, though, that Illinois law already recognizes the potential for driver impairment at a BAC below .08. As the law currently stands, a driver can be charged and convicted of driving under the influence with a BAC over .05 but less than .08 when there is additional evidence of impairment, such as failure of standardized field sobriety tests.
All things considered, Illinois seems unlikely to change its “per se” DUI standard from .08 to .05 BAC in the next two or three years. But if enough states jump on the .05 bandwagon, along with influential public-interest lobbies, Illinois may well follow.
Trust an Experienced Joliet DUI Defense Attorney
If arrested for DUI, consult a knowledgeable Will County DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, we will examine all the details of your case and fight aggressively to get you the best possible outcome. Call our office at 815-740-4025; we answer calls 24 hours a day.