Eight points in favor of 0.08 Drunken driving law: Lawmakers won't lack for evidence to support approving this change.

March 08, 1998

WHEN STATE LAWMAKERS take up a bill this week to toughen Maryland's drunken-driving law, they will hear much evidence that it's the right thing to do.

They will hear how their colleagues in the U.S. Senate voted by a 2-1 margin to tie a portion of federal transportation money to whether a state uses a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 as its legal standard for driving while intoxicated.

They will hear how Maryland, which currently relies on a less stringent 0.10 standard, is among 25 states considering joining the 15 that have moved to 0.08 -- including neighboring, politically conservative Virginia.

They will hear how most industrialized nations use 0.08 or stricter measures to discourage drunken driving, including countries known for beer and wine production and consumption.

They will hear tragic stories like that of Brenda and Randy Frazier of Westminster. Ms. Frazier watched her 9-year-old daughter, Ashley, get struck and killed by a 0.08-drunken driver while the girl approached her school bus days before Christmas 1995. The driver, a female college student, got five days in jail.

They will hear estimates that 600 deaths nationwide could be saved if all states had a 0.08 standard, and 23 in Maryland alone.

They will hear experts like Dr. Carl A. Soderstrom of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center explain that 0.08 is not a number plucked from the air, but a scientific benchmark of drunkenness and impairment.

After the legislators hear all that, they should ask themselves two more questions:

Would they want a loved one in a car that they themselves were operating after they had consumed four cans of beer, or four glasses of wine, or four shots of liquor in an hour? In fact, it would require even more drink than that for a man heavier than 170 pounds or with some food in his stomach to reach 0.08. It would be a little less for a woman lighter than 140 pounds. The lawmakers can even return to the safety of their hotel rooms or homes and try it; the answer would be disturbingly obvious.

The second question lawmakers should ask: If the legislature has felt it important enough to save motorists from themselves by requiring seat-belt usage and motorcycle helmets, why would it hesitate to protect innocent Marylanders from others too drunk to drive?

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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