Advocates on Maui push to lower legal limit for driving drunk in Hawaii

Advocates say it all starts with lowering the legal limit for drunk driving in the state, and they're trying to garner more support.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:01 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:59 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Families on Maui are pushing for tougher laws against drunk driving.

They say it all starts with lowering the blood alcohol content (BAC) level in Hawaii.

“We’re confident that the lawmakers are listening to the community now that’s in an uproar around a number of crashes that have happened in the community ... people are really wanting action, this is a way to take action,” said Hawaii Alcohol Policy Alliance (HIAPA) Director Rick Collins.

Members of HIAPA, the Maui Police Department, and the Maui Prosecutor’s Office held signs near the corner of Puunene and Kaahumanu Avenues in Kahului Wednesday afternoon encouraging sober driving.

They are trying to lower the legal BAC limit from 0.08% to 0.05%.

Supporters of Senate Bill 160 say Hawaii has the seventh-highest rate of alcohol-impaired driving in the nation. They say 40% of traffic fatalities involve alcohol-impaired drivers.

They believe passing this new law will reduce drinking and driving, and alcohol-related fatalities.

“We’re not opposed to drinking. We’re just separating drinking and driving. That’s our message. We want to separate drinking and driving. We want safe roadways for everyone,” said Collins.

Utah is the only other state in the nation with a law like this. Supporters of Senate Bill 160 say studies show Utah’s fatal crash rate declined by about 20% within the first year.

Those who oppose the bill say they want to save lives too, but SB160 isn’t the answer.

“If I believed that 0.08 to 0.05 would change the world and eliminate drunk driving, I would be the first person to the Capitol saying this bill should happen. But that is not the case,” said Maui Brewing Co. CEO and founder Garrett Marrero.

SB160 has been referred to the Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee. However, it has not been scheduled for a hearing yet. In the past, this is where the bill has died.

“When you look at repeat offenders, and you look at the vast majority of these deaths that occur due to drunk driving, which are horrible. These are not 0.05 to 0.08. These are typically going to be well above the 0.08 limit,” Marrero said.

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