Sen. Lovick calls for stricter blood-alcohol limit in Washington state

Jan 3, 2023, 1:53 PM | Updated: 7:23 pm
blood-alcohol limit...
(Photo by Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance via Getty Images)
(Photo by Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Washington state Senator John Lovick is pushing to lower the legally-allotted blood-alcohol limit from 0.08% to 0.05% as part of his 2023 goal to make the state’s roads and streets safer for both pedestrians and drivers.

“One of the things that I think we need to understand traffic safety is community safety,” Lovick said on The Gee and Ursula Show. “And what I tell people all the time is getting hit by a drunk driver should not be the price that we have to pay to live in our state, to walk on our streets.”

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Approximately 700 people died on Washington’s roads last year, according to Lovick, the worst it has been in the state since 1996.

“When you see these signs around the state, 0.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit, I think that’s just a terrible message,” Lovick said. “It’s almost telling a person, and I hate to say it like this, that 0.08% BAC is okay, 0.08% BAC is not okay. I say this all the time. Impairment starts with a very, very first drink, and you shouldn’t be driving with alcohol in your system.”

Driving under the influence and other alcohol-related fatalities comprise approximately 30% of all traffic fatalities annually, according to 2022 drunk driving statistics, with more than 100,000 people dying annually due to drunk driving.

A silver lining in the data is that DUI-related deaths have dropped by 1% nationally since 2016.

Lovick’s idea to lower the blood-alcohol limit mirrors recent Utah legislation, which lowered its limit in 2019 and subsequently saw a drop in fatal vehicle collisions, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

“A lot of people were concerned that the sale of alcohol would go down — it did not. People just don’t drive, and they’ve actually reduced their fatalities by 20%,” Lovick said. “People walking around are still alive because they lowered the limit and are holding people accountable.”

Lovick cited that one of the biggest obstacles is getting bars and restaurants to agree, as most of those businesses believe they would be losing money due to fewer drinks being purchased per person.

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“I think we’re going to get a lot of support this time because I think people are looking at the number of fatalities,” Lovick said. “They keep going up year after year, and we’re going to say to ourselves, ‘it’s time to do this.’ And there’s always the right time to do the right thing, and this is the right time to do it.”

Other statistics shared from 2022’s report include young drivers — people between ages 21 and 35 — accounted for more than half of fatal DUI-related crashes in the U.S. Men were also far more likely to drink and drive, as they were involved in 80% of all drunk-driving fatalities.

After adjusting for population variance, the states with the highest percentage of deaths by drunk driving were Montana (48%) and Texas (46%), while Kansas (24%) had the lowest percentage.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Sen. Lovick calls for stricter blood-alcohol limit in Washington state