Lowering the BAL makes cents

One tequila, two tequila, better not have any more. Actually, if you’re driving, better stop at one.

The Iowa Legislature is considering a bill that would lower the state’s blood alcohol content, the number determining intoxication, from .10 to .08. It is a bill they have yet to pass.

In October 2000, the federal government passed a law requiring states to standardize laws determining intoxication. All states must have laws defining intoxication as a blood alcohol level of .08 by Oct. 1, 2003, or lose 2 percent of their federal funding for highway construction.

Backers of the initiative say it saves lives, reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths by 6 to 8 percent in states that have passed it.

For example, currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a .08 blood alcohol content law, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In Vermont the amount of driver-alcohol involvement involving any alcohol decreased by 36 percent.

Obviously, the change does have its positive effects. So why does the federal government have to force it through? Shouldn’t decreased alcohol-related accidents be enough to motivate states without holding federal highway funding over their heads too?

Iowa is facing a tight budget year. State agencies in all 99 counties are facing budget cuts. So losing any amount of federal funding is not an option.

Although opinions vary on the proposed law, it is generally agreed that it will pass in the legislature this session. However, legislators are not exactly thrilled about the strong-arm situation.

In a Des Moines Register article from Feb. 5, Senate Majority Leader Stewart Iverson said the .08 law “still boils down to the federal government saying you have to do it or you lose your federal highway money.” House Majority Leader Christopher Rants also said he thinks the bill will probably pass, but added that he’s “not particularly wild about the idea.”

It is logical that a lowered blood alcohol content would result in fewer alcohol-related accidents. But the federal blackmail placed on states forces action for the wrong reason – money.

States should pass the .08 law. Nevertheless, it should be for the security and safety of each state’s constituents, not the quality of its roads. There’s no reason citizens shouldn’t support this change for more obvious reasons – like safety.

Drunk driving is a major problem. Not too long ago, this was seen as a minor offense, one where a fine and a ticket were the only punishments. Now, it is recognized as the major problem that it is where the public knows the immense dangers of driving drunk. Moreover, lowering the allowable alcohol level only helps.