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The new definition of drunk driving in Michigan .08 -- Lower Limit. Tougher Law.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2003
Michigan's tolerance for drunk drivers is going down, starting today, when .08 blood-alcohol content (BAC) becomes the new drunk driving standard. Michigan previously had a two-tiered standard, with .10 BAC or greater considered drunk driving and .08-.09 BAC being impaired driving.
A broad-based coalition gathered in Lansing today to formally launch an information campaign that alerts motorists to the change, and encourages sober, responsible driving.
"Starting today, less is more," Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said. "The lower limit means safer roads, tougher laws and greater penalties. This tool gives you a better chance of coming home alive. I encourage everyone to spread the word. Tell your friends and family of this important change. It's smart, it's safe and as of today - it's the law."
"Strong laws and tough enforcement should be sobering words to those who drive drunk," said Colonel Tadarial J. Sturdivant, director of the Michigan Department of State Police. "With the use of technology, such as in-car video cameras that capture poor driving and sobriety tests on tape, our enforcement efforts continue to be enhanced."
Michigan is the 44th state to adopt an .08 BAC standard for drunk driving offenses. Many studies show that .08 BAC laws save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the country would save 400-600 lives each year if all states adopted .08 laws. The change also means Michigan avoids significant federal penalties and the loss of highway construction funds.
A first-time offender convicted of drunk driving faces:
Convicted drunk drivers will also be subject to a new $1,000 penalty that is included in a recently approved driver responsibility program. The $1,000 penalty will be imposed for two consecutive years. Drivers may still be arrested and charged with impaired driving, however, the law no longer has a blood alcohol content associated with impaired. Those convicted of impaired driving face an additional $500 penalty assessed for two consecutive years.
Last year, 463 people died in alcohol and/or drug-related crashes in Michigan. Of that number, 358 were killed in alcohol-only crashes, 41 in drug-involved crashes and 64 in both alcohol- and drug-involved crashes. Michigan law enforcement officers arrested 57,789 people for alcohol-related driving offenses in 2002. Of that number, 26,330 were convicted of drunk driving and 28,770 were convicted of impaired driving.
According to the NHTSA, laboratory and on-road research shows that the vast majority of drivers are significantly impaired at .08 with regard to critical driving tasks such as braking, steering, lane changing, judgment and divided attention.
In addition to the change in the drunk driving standard, the new law also contains a zero tolerance for drivers with certain illegal drugs in their system. These "schedule 1" drugs are those with no medicinal use, such as marijuana, GHB, cocaine and cocaine-derivative drugs. With this change, prosecutors will not have to prove the driver was impaired, just that they were driving with those drugs in their system. The same penalties for drunk driving will apply to those convicted under the zero-tolerance drug provisions.
Other penalties have also been increased. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given a one-year driver's license suspension. The penalty had been a six-month license suspension. For a second refusal in seven years, it is a two-year suspension.
Editor's note: Radio actualities are available on the Department of State news line at (517) 241-2800.
> Fact Sheet: Alcohol and Driving in Michigan
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