Drunken driver definition could change without lawmaker action - WNEM TV 5

Drunken driver definition could change without lawmaker action

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Drunken drivers could catch a break under a loophole in Michigan law, and families of victims of drunken driving are urging lawmakers to act fast to fix it.

Ron Mayes visited the gravesites of his two daughters on Tuesday. Shannon and Heather Mayes are buried next to each other, and both were killed by a drunken driver a little more than 12 years ago.

Tuesday would have been Shannon Mayes' 33rd birthday. Ron Mayes said he thinks about his two girls every morning, so when he hears the state may be softening its stance on drunken driving, he can't help be get angry.

"We made a lot of progress in reducing drunk driving crashes, and deaths, and things, and it would just be a huge step backwards in my opinion if they let it go," said Ron Mayes.

Back in 2003, Michigan lawmakers passed a law that essentially changed the definition what being drunk is in our state. Previously, a person was considered drunk if they had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.10. The new law reduced it to a BAC of .08. But that law is set to expire this October, which would mean the limit would revert back to the original level of .10 if lawmakers don't act.

Midland County Prosecutor Michael Carpenter said this would lead to no good.

"When you're driving down the road, and someone's coming within three or four feet of you driving the other way, do you want them to have 25 percent more alcohol in their system? No way," said Carpenter.

Michigan would be the only state in the nation that would allow a BAC of .10 if the law reverts.  Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning statistics show that reducing the legal limit has helped reduce alcohol-related fatalities. From 2004 to 2011, alcohol-related deaths dropped by 22 percent.

"What's the benefit? Now, we just hope that the legislators use the courage to say it's worth fighting for keeping the .08 and finish the job that 10 years ago was left undone," said Carpenter.

Michigan would also lose some $51 million of federal highway funding if this changes. It would also make the state the only one in the nation that does not abide by the point-oh-eight threshold.

Michigan's Mothers Against Drunk Driving is calling on lawmakers to prevent a scheduled rise in the state's legal blood alcohol content driving threshold.

The organization is expected to testify in front of the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. MADD will be supporting a bill introduced by Republican Rep. Andrea LaFontaine of Columbus Township.

The bill would keep Michigan's legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers at .08 percent. LaFontaine's office says Michigan must maintain its .08 percent law to avoid violating federal drunken driving standards and continue receiving federal funding.

MADD says the .08 percent law has contributed to a 25 percent drop in drunken driving deaths in Michigan.

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