OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington could join Utah in having the lowest threshold in the country for identifying drunk drivers.
Under a proposal submitted Thursday by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, and Sen. John Lovick, D-Snohomish County, the state’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for determining when a driver is impaired would be lowered from .08 to .05.
In 2017, Utah made that same change. Federal studies found the number of drunk driving crashes and facilities has decreased since then.
Citing statistics from a report from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, State Sen. Liias said Washington should consider the change.
“Our traffic fatalities are hitting back to highs we've not seen in over 15 years,” said Liias.
He said the bill was likely proposed too late in the current session for the law to pass in 2022, but he said he wanted to start the conversation in Olympia.
”These days, we've got a lot of other alternatives, not just the designated driver of the past, but we have ride-sharing and more transit options,” said Liias.
The proposal has the endorsement of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.
Liias says he expects pushback from a number of businesses, including restaurants, bars, distilleries, wineries and breweries.
"This is not about encouraging or discouraging Washingtonians from enjoying the fruits of our vineyards and the great work of our distillers. It's about whether or not you should drive," he said.
Ultimately, Liias said the scientific evidence shows that there is a loss of capacity between .05 and .08.