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State unlikely to act on push for lower booze level for driving

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Federal officials are recommending that states reduce the amount of alcohol people can drink and still get behind the wheel. But a key state lawmaker says that’s not likely to happen in Indiana.

The National Traffic Safety Board voted Tuesday for a series of recommendations, including that states lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving to 0.05 percent. Currently, the legal blood-alcohol level for driving is 0.08 percent in Indiana and most states.

The board’s vote came on the 25th anniversary of the nation’s deadliest drunk-driving incident, a bus crash in Carrollton, Ky., where 3 adults and 24 children died.

Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, fought for 11 years in the Indiana General Assembly to bring the blood-alcohol level down from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent before lawmakers approved the change in 2001. Wyss said at the time that the law passed in part because the federal government was threatening to withhold significant amounts of transportation money from Indiana if it didn’t make the change.

On Tuesday, Wyss said he’s doubtful the General Assembly would consider reducing the level again – and it would be “nearly impossible” to bring the level to 0.05 percent.

“It’s an effort I would not undertake again,” Wyss said.

Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, said he probably would not support the move. He said he would need to see more evidence that moving the level would actually be beneficial.

Indiana law does allow a person to be arrested if caught driving with a 0.05 percent blood-alcohol level – but only if the officer can prove impairment.

“I think we are just getting over the top and harassing people,” Boots said.

However, Wyss said that with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent, a person shows signs of impairment and shouldn’t be driving. He said he showed his colleagues data more than a decade ago that proves about 98 percent of people are impaired at 0.05.

But he said many people feel it is their right to drive drunk or impaired – and it’s not.

At least 100 other countries have a blood-alcohol limit of 0.05 percent, including Europe.

“Other countries are much further ahead of the U.S. and their understandings of drunk driving,” Wyss said.

Kara Brooks, press secretary for Gov. Mike Pence, said the office is aware of the federal agency’s recommendation but has not had official communication about it.

“When we do, we will give the review consideration,” Brooks said.

The NTSB also recommended that states increase the use of visible law enforcement on the roads, require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders and create and use more courts specializing in cases of driving while under the influence.

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  • Lock'Em up
    I say we up the penalty on turn signal offenses. Forget to turn your turn signal on, minimum two years. Really, we elect politicians thinking they are supposed to work for citizens and they waste time on stupid stuff like this. How many tax dollars and hours are being wasted trying to go from .08 to .05. Are there not better things to focus time and energy. Wonder how many accidents are caused by drivers at the .06 level, or is this just another reach for more taxes through fines.
  • Another Stupid Idea From Washington
    What other countries do is a distinction in search of a difference. First Wyss cites Europe. Europe has is a much smaller, more densely populated continent with highly developed mass transit systems. It is also filled with small local pubs in about every block, so people do not tend to venture far from home. Wyss claims they are "way ahead" of us. Does the fact that many countries have no minimum drinking age make them "way ahead", Senator? This is clearly another way the goveernment can extract money from responsible, law abiding citizens. The only people this affects are those who are conscientious enough to "say when" between .05 and .08. So now, for three one hundredths of one percent less BAC, you go to jail, lose your license and thousands of $$? Serious offenders won't be deterred.
  • Boozin'
    Who is telling us that we cannot drink, text, talk and drive? What an intrusion on our rights. David Bissard agrees...
  • Enough Fed Nanny
    I think most of us are getting sick and tired of the Feds becoming our Nanny, and almighty protector from ourselves. Do they not have enough work to do? Sounds like we should be downsizing the multiple Fed agencies so they can do the work they were legislated to do in the first place. Obsession of catching people in the act of something wrong has gone way to far in this country.

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