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More Than Ever, It Is Imperative That Minnesota Adopt the .08 Illegal BAC

Author / Coordinator:  
The Associated Press
March 2007

Article: Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Impaired driving is a complicated problem that demands a comprehensive solution, and research overwhelmingly shows that .08 BAC is a critical part of the solution.

Minnesota continues to lose the battle with the most preventable and committed crime in our state: drunk driving.

In 2001, an alarming 211 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, representing 37% of the 568 killed in all traffic crashes. Additionally, 4,034 were injured in drunk driving crashes.

.08 BAC drivers are individuals whose critical driving skills are dangerously compromised. All of the skills that are needed to judge distance and speed, steering, visual tracking, concentration, braking and staying in driving lanes are severely affected at .08 BAC.

Scientific research has demonstrated the need for .08 BAC laws. Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reviewed the evidence of the effectiveness of the .08 BAC. CDC concluded that .08 BAC laws reduce alcohol-related traffic fatalities by an average of seven percent in states that have enacted the law. A study of the effectiveness of the .08 BAC law implemented in Illinois found that enactment of the law was associated with a 13.7% decline in the number of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes. The reduction included drivers at both high and low BAC levels. This is significant because critics of .08 BAC laws have often claimed that three laws do nothing to affect high BAC drivers.

34 states have enacted .08 BAC.

The cost to the victims are enormous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates that the average alcohol-related fatality in Minnesota costs $3.6 million and injury costs of $106,000.

Minnesota taxpayers have lost to date $14,648,583 in incentive dollars under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). These funds were set aside as an incentive for states to lower their alcohol limits to .08 BAC. These dollars are lost, not recoverable!
If Minnesota does not adopt .08 BAC as the standard in 2004, we begin to lose transportation dollars as follows:
2004 2% $6.64M
2005 4% $13.28M
2006 6% $19.92M
2007 8% $26.56M
Total   $66.40M

The incentive funds may be used for any purpose eligible under Title 23, which includes a broad range of highway-related activities.

Enacting the .08 BAC standard is a win-win for Minnesotans. This law will save the lives of our citizens and the dollars of our taxpayers.

.08 BAC

  • Impaired driving is 100% preventable…if you drink, don’t drive!
  • In 1998, 42% of Minnesota traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. The highest percent since 1989.
  • All drivers, even experienced drivers, are substantially impaired at .08 BAC with regard to critical driving tasks such as braking, steering, lane changing, judgment and divided attention.
  • Chances of being involved in a crash increases at each blood alcohol level, but rises very rapidly after a driver reaches or exceeds .08 BAC.
  • NHTSA surveys show that most people would not drive consuming 2 or 3 drinks.
  • 2 out of 3 Americans favor lowering the limit to .08.
  • .08 laws have been effective in reducing impaired driving in the states that have adopted them.
  • .08 BAC laws are particularly effective when coupled with other efforts, including ALR laws, checkpoints, enforcement blitzes, and public information campaigns.
  • In 1999, Minnesota failed to receive $2,753,928 in federal funding because the Minnesota legislature failed to pass .08 BAC lifesaving legislation.

Article: The Associated Press

(5/27/2004 ) Governor Pawlenty signed the bill lowering the threshold for drunken driving in Minnesota Thursday.

The bill was approved on the last day of the regular session.

It lowers the threshold for DWI from .10% blood-alcohol concentration to .08%.

"Lowering the legal alcohol limit in Minnesota is a change long overdue," Pawlenty said. "Drunk drivers are public enemy number one on our roads, and people who threaten our public safety by driving impaired will feel the impact of this law."

The new law will take effect in August of next year.

Minnesota and Delaware were the two states where lawmakers had resisted the stricter DWI limit ordered by Congress. The Minnesota House had wanted to push the date off until 2007.

By agreeing to lower its DWI limit, Minnesota will avoid losing millions worth of federal highway dollars.

It's estimated the lower limit will save 70 lives over the next five years.