- Lower the BAC limit for DUI to 0.05 (currently 0.08 in all 50 states* and DC)
- Increase alcohol taxes
- Reduce the hours and days during which alcohol can be sold
- Crack down on sales of alcohol to people under 21 and people who are already intoxicated
- Put limits on alcohol marketing and fund anti-alcohol campaigns similar to what is currently done with smoking.
Lower the BAC limit to 0.05. Twenty-One debunked supports this one, albeit with the reservation that driving with a BAC of 0.050-0.079 ought to be a traffic violation rather than a criminal offense, with criminal penalties reserved for those above 0.08. The models used in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, or even the one currently used in New York, should be used in all states and territories. And all penalties for DUI should be steeply graduated based on BAC in general.
Increase alcohol taxes. Twenty-One Debunked fully supports this one, and it is in fact a key component of our proposal. And it is probably the single best way to reduce alcohol-related harms, including drunk driving casualties. We recommend raising and equalizing the federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to the 1991 inflation-adjusted level for distilled spirits, namely $24 per proof-gallon.
Reduce the hours and days during which alcohol can be sold. Twenty-One Debunked does not take an official position on this one, but would be fine with a modest reduction depending on the details (days?). It would seem that there is an optimum time for "last call" which is overall better than anything much earlier or later. We need more information to make a sound judgment about this recommendation.
Crack down on alcohol sales to people under 21. Well, you should know by now how we stand on that one. In a word, NO. Twenty-One Debunked believes in lowering the drinking age to 18, full stop. That said, we would be fine with cracking down on vendors who sell to people under 18 all the same.
Crack down on sales to people who are already (noticeably) intoxicated. Twenty-One Debunked would be okay with that, as long it is not done in an ageist or overly heavy-handed fashion.
Put limits on alcohol marketing and fund anti-alcohol campaigns similar to smoking. Twenty-One Debunked supports this one, albeit with some reservations. Clearly, alcohol and tobacco are quite different from one another in terms of both harm and addictiveness, and that undeniable fact should figure into any such campaigns. Alcohol is not all bad per se, unlike tobacco. As a wise man once said, smoking is not like drinking, it is more like being an alcoholic.
Also, some ideas were noticeably absent or at best downplayed from the list of recommendations. These include:
- Tougher enforcement against DUI
- Tougher (and graduated) penalties for DUI
- Ignition interlock devices
- South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Program
- Safe rider programs
- Alcohol server training
- Reducing outlet density
- Social norms marketing
- Innovative alcohol education methods
- Improved treatment for alcohol use disorders
- Better public transportation
- Better traffic safety measures in general
- Increasing the gas tax
But back to the controversial 0.05 limit proposal, as we have noted above, it should be administrative rather than criminal. Even for BACs above 0.08 it should also carry such administrative sanctions in addition to (and separate from) any criminal penalies. And the Canadian experience with such has shown that swift and certain (but modest) punishment works wonders, much more so than lowering the boom rarely and haphazardly. As for the fear that bars and restaurants will lose business as a result? Well, let us play the world's smallest violin for them. They may want to think ahead and invest in "safe rider" programs then. Problem solved.
So what are we waiting for?
* The criminal BAC limit is 0.08 in all states except Utah, whose new 0.05 law goes into effect on December 30, 2018. Some states, such as New York, actually already set the limit at 0.05 for a lesser offense that is just a traffic violation and not a criminal offense, albeit with license suspension.