Lawmakers, bartenders respond to .05 DUI recommendation - WKRN News 2

Lawmakers, bartenders respond to .05 DUI recommendation

Posted: Updated: May 14, 2013 10:49 PM

A federal recommendation to lower the definition of drunk driving from .08 to .05 of blood alcohol content will likely have no shortage of sponsors in Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Republican from east Tennessee, told Nashville's News 2, "I am one hundred percent behind it, and I will be carrying the bill if they want me to."

Rep. Tim Wirgau of Henry County said he too would be supportive of lowering the blood alcohol content to .05, but "we have got to enforce it."

The lawmakers were asked about proposal in the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board staff's recommendation Tuesday that said the United State is too intolerant of drunk drivers.

All 50 states now set the definition of drunk driving at .08, but the NSTB says the legal limit is often lower in places like Europe.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that about a third of all road deaths can be attributed to drunk driving.

For Rep. Faison, the issue of drunk driving is personal

"When I was 14, my sister was killed by a drunk driver, she had just turned 16," he told Nashville's News 2. "It impacted my life hugely, and after that I set out to do everything I can to push back against people who would get behind the wheel drunk."

While the NTSB has no authority to make laws, its recommendations have often been followed, partly because Congress can tie adoption of recommendation to getting federal highway money.

NTSB recommendations have led to changes in driving laws across the U.S.

Its recommendation of raising state drinking ages to 21 was followed in most states, as was lowering the drunk driving limit from .10 to .08. in all 50 states.

Tennessee was among the last states in the nation to adopt the NTSB recommendations to lower the DUI limits from .01 to .08 in the early 2000s.

The state's powerful liquor and beer interests were among the leaders in fighting those efforts.

Those in the bar and restaurant scene see no reason for change.

"If they are going to go out and drink they're going to drink until they think they're okay and sometimes they are and sometimes they're not," said Lindsay Harbor, a bartender at Blue Bar on Music Row in Downtown Nashville.

Harbor can make a mean drink on any given day, but she also knows when to stop serving those customers who may be too intoxicated to drive.

She understands why NTSB is pushing to lower the blood alcohol level, but does not think the move would make a difference.

"It doesn't really matter what the level is set to. People are going to make the judgement whether it's bad or good; they are going to drive regardless," said Harbor.

Heather Lose a patron at the Blue Bar makes it a point to drink responsibly.

She thinks having more cabs on the roads would help reduce drunk drivers, not cutting the blood alcohol level by more than a third.

"If they aren't detered by a .08, those kind of people won't be deterred by .05," said Lose.

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