Over a New Limit

Jessica Findlay, Senior Reporter

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“What it will help do is raise awareness to folks that you can be impaired at an .05,” said Sgt. Tim Plummer, speaking about a pitched idea to lower the legal blood alcohol level. On April 8th, Sen. President Peter Courtney of D-Salem proposed a bill to lower the legal blood alcohol level in Oregon that caused a large level of bickering between citizens and politicians. People are speaking out over social media about whether this bill should become a law, or be killed in committee. Everyone is weighing the pros and cons, the morality, and the ethics of the decision, and emotions are not being held back as a war with words sparks in our west coast state.

0.08 blood alcohol level (BAC) is currently the legal limit in 49 states in the US. Anyone driving with 0.08% or more of alcohol in their system risks going to jail. But in the recent years, there has been chatter on the web between concerned citizens, and conversations between political figures to lower the BAC to 0.05. Sen. President Peter Courtney of D-Salem who pitched the bill to the senate, hopes that lowering the legal limit will encourage more safety on the roads. According to the statistics provided by Andrew Theen, a reporter and writer for the Oregonian, “Between 2013 and 2017, drunken drivers killed 543 people in crashes where drivers had a BAC at or above the currently legal limit. Eleven people died in crashes where a driver blew between a .05 and .08, according to state records.” Along with the provided facts, Theen also wrote about a trial The Oregonian had conducted earlier this year. They sent two men and two women into a bar for drinks. After drinking “two beers in one hour,” each participant reported that they felt intoxicated and that they did not feel safe to drive. When tested, their blood alcohol level was “at or below 0.05.” Theen, Courtney, and others want to raise awareness that people can be dangerously impaired below 0.08. They believe that the legal limit should be lowered to encourage people to stop drinking and driving.

Now, what about the other side of the coin? While some people believe that lowering the legal limit will benefit the community, not everyone shares this view. Sydney Groves, a senior at Clackamas High School, says, “[she doesn’t] think it’s important. [She feels] like it’s not something we need to be worried about right now.” She couldn’t think of a benefit for the change, but she could think of plenty of negatives. Sydney does not believe she has enough knowledge on the subject to properly give an analysis because she is only eighteen years of age, and because she had not heard of the proposed bill, or the idea in general, for that matter.

Also at Clackamas High School, Martin Lefkowitz, a Government teacher, says, “I think you would have a lot more people who could be cited under DUI laws. The difficulty is when you have a product that is legal for sale and is available in every grocery store to individuals. You’re putting a lot more individuals at risk for being charged under those laws then what we currently have.” He eluded to the difficulties police officers would have if the bill were to pass. He explained how there will be more people on the road who are impaired, and lowering the limit will place a strain on law enforcement that has never been felt before. He does say that “any effort to ensure that our roadways are safe is important,” but he believes that 0.05 will do more harm than good.

Theen published his article relating to the legal BAC limit on The Oregonian’s website, and 140 people commented on the page. There were supporters for the bill, “Japan for instance has a limit of 0%, along with serious punishment. They don’t have a drunk driving problem, at all,” and people who voted that the bill should be killed off in committee, “70% of drunk driving fatalities have drivers with 15% or higher blood alcohol level. Lowering the legal limit to 5% isn’t going to change that.” The majority of the comments were people who do not support the bill, but on almost every comment, there was a reply that backed up the bill with opinion or facts. According to the website, the topic of lowering the legal limit is still in serious debate, despite the fact that the bill will not be pushing forward in Oregon this year.  

As of April 2019, Courtney announced that his bill will not be sent to the House of Representatives or the Senate for review, but he hopes that it will bring realization to the people of America, and that the bill will have a change to move forward in years to come. And as the bill has its supporters, many people, including Sydney and Mr. Lefkowitz, feel that there are more pressing concerns in our world today that need our complete and undivided attention, so they will not be supporting the bill. Courtney expected that the legislatures would not pass on the bill this year, but “getting the idea out,” and sparking conversation among politicians and the public was his intended goal, which he accomplished.

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