Fight to lower legal limit for drunk driving in Hawaii hits roadblock

The fight to lower the legal limit for drunk driving in Hawaii hit a roadblock. A proposal to lower the blood alcohol level died this legislative session.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 9:29 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2022 at 12:26 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fight to lower the legal limit for drunk driving in Hawaii has hit a roadblock.

A proposal to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) level officially died this legislative session.

However, advocates for the change say they are not giving up and will be back next year.

“They don’t understand the severity of how this can really help our community for the long run,” said Charlene Brown.

Brown’s daughter Hannah was killed by a drunk driver in 2019.

She, and many others, have been advocating to lower the legal blood alcohol content level for impaired driving in the state from the current 0.08 to 0.05 in hopes of saving lives.

The bill has been proposed many times before, but it’s never gotten the support it needs to become law.

“We have more people die in car crashes and DUI related incidents than you have murders. So that’s something that needs to be looked at seriously and it’s an easy fix. But we need lawmakers who are brave enough and strong enough to step up and push this bill through,” said William Hankins, retired Maui Police Department’s traffic commander.

Critics of the bill say it criminalizes the behavior of responsible drinkers.

Instead, they say, the community should focus on drivers with higher BAC levels.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) disagrees.

“All drivers impaired can be can be deadly,” said Theresa Paulette, MADD Hawaii’s Victim Services Specialist. “0.05 is going to be a big deterrent to all drivers once they know that Hawaii is really taking impaired driving seriously and that they want to put an end to it.”

Utah is currently the only state with the lower 0.05 AC threshold.

A recent study found Utah’s fatal crash rate dropped by almost 20% in 2019 — the first year under the lower legal limit.

“I think it’s going to take our community telling the lawmakers that they need to stop bending to the alcohol industry, they believe that that’s going to shrink, they’re already oversized pockets. That’s just not the case,” said Rick Collins, Hawaii Alcohol Policy Alliance Director.

There are other safety measures still alive at the state Capitol.

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