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Legal Limit For Alcohol On Its Way To Governor’s Desk

Drunk Driving

Michigan’s 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level is set to expire next year.  But a bill is on its way to the governor’s desk to prevent that.

Once in a while, the state’s BAC level essentially expires.  The law has a built-in sunset that requires the Legislature to look at the level and consider changing it.  But bill sponsor Klint Kesto (R-Walled Lake) says the current level is good for Michigan and it needs to stay.

“I think it’s good for public safety, I think it’s good for road safety, and I think it’s good for the safety of all our Michigan families out there,” he said.

In 2003, the federal governmenttied highway funding to states having a 0.08 blood alcohol level (BAC) limit. 

“The federal government has decided to handcuff the state Legislature and put strings on the dollars,” Kesto said.  “Part of that is making sure our BAC level on the road is .08.”

Representative Patrick Green (D-Warren) sponsored a companion bill.  Both lawmakers agree that keeping the federal funding is important, but so is keeping the roads safe.

“Extending the sunset will ensure the continued safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, as well as allowing our state to maintain current levels of federal transportation funding,” said Green in a statement.  “Investing in our state’s infrastructure has been a top priority of mine, and these bills solidify our current levels of federal funding - almost one third of our highway funding.”

Lawmakers originally wanted to get rid of the expiration date altogether.  But Representative Joseph Graves (R-Argentine Township) offered the amendment to keep the sunset during a committee hearing.  That passed.  Graves says the sunset is necessary, in part, because of term limits.  

“We have a lot of different people here, so let’s have them continue the discussion every time to make sure this is the right thing to do rather than just have something out there that will never die,” he said.  “I think the discussion should be had by members of that time.”

If the state doesn’t renew the sunset before October of next year, the state’s limit will automatically go up to 0.10.  The blood alcohol limit was last renewed in 2013.  The new sunset will require lawmakers to reexamine the limit again in 2021. 

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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