If a proposed Oregon bill passes, the state may join Utah in lowering the legal standard for driving under the influence to .05 percent. A 160-pound man would hit the limit with three drinks in one hour, while a 120-pound woman would after one or two drinks.
Oregon followed Utah's footsteps 35 years ago when it moved from a blood alcohol content limit of .10 to the now nationally recognized .08 maximum. Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney plans to introduce a bill that once again adopts Utah's regulations, where the nation's strictest limit became effective Sunday.
“It’s going to be a struggle,” Courtney told The Oregonian. “This is a Mount Everest move. It’s doable, but it isn’t going to be easy. I’m going to fight like hell to make it happen.”
His proposal would follow the National Transportation Safety Board's 2013 recommendation to lower BAC limits to .05, reducing fatal accidents caused by drunk driving. One study estimated that a .05 limit would prevent 11 percent of fatal crashes involving alcohol and save nearly 1,800 lives each year.
A spokesperson for the American Beverage Institute, which represents restaurants and beer, wine and spirits producers, told the The Oregonian that legislation should focus on drivers who drink high volumes of alcohol. In 2012, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found 70 percent of alcohol-related fatal crashes involved at least one driver with a BAC of .15 or higher.
“We think this law criminalizes perfectly responsible behavior,” spokesperson Jackson Shedelbower told the Oregonian.
The upcoming Oregon legislative session begins Jan. 22.