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NC bill aims to lower blood alcohol limit, but what are its chances of survival?



RALEIGH, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A bill has been filed in Raleigh that, if approved, would lower North Carolina’s legal blood-alcohol limit for driving. 

House Bill 148, which aims to lower the limit from .08 to .05., was filed in February by state Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Transylvania, Jackson, Swain), who is a retired Charlotte Fire Department captain.   

The bill would not change much of the current law for driving while impaired, other than lowering the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).  

Utah currently has a .05 BAC limit, and other states have similar measures to North Carolina that are currently being considered. 

“Look at what other countries have done and realize hundreds of lives could be saved by this legislation,” said Rick Birt, president of the national Students Against Destructive Decisions, otherwise known as SADD. The organization was previously known as Students Against Drunk Driving. 

Birt noted that the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending a lowering of blood-alcohol limits nationwide since 2013. For him, it’s about saving more lives. 

“Even though we support the legislation, we think this should be part of a more holistic approach,” said Birt. “Talking with teens, talking with parents, engaging with law enforcement, making sure people know that driving impaired even one time is dangerous.” 

However, support is not universal for this legislation. 

Mark Jetton, a DWI lawyer with the Jetton and Meredith firm in Charlotte, has his reservations. 

“You’re getting to a point where that limit is so low.,” Jetton said. “Can someone drink a beer? Or have a glass of wine with friends at a restaurant, and be concerned?” 

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Jetton noted he does not condone drinking and driving, but also said, “that number is not the tell-tale factor if someone is impaired.” 

Federal officials noted that if the .05 limit is adopted across the country, deadly crash rates could go down by as much as 11 percent. 

However, there is a belief, at least in North Carolina, that this legislation will be an uphill climb, for those for and against the legislation. 

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“I hope it really gives some people reflection on, ‘OK, what does it mean when I’m impaired and what is my plan if I am going to be impaired to get home safely?'” Birt said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving have expressed support for the bill to lower the blood-alcohol limit. 

Queen City News reached out to Clampitt about the bill. While he was willing to speak on the subject, he could not make himself available for an interview by our Wednesday afternoon deadline. 

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