SHSU Professor Disputes Blood Alcohol Content Law

By: Meredith Stancik Email
By: Meredith Stancik Email

What works and what doesn't when it comes to curbing alcohol abuse?

That's what one Sam Houston State University professor wanted to find out.

"We really need to look harder at the laws we have and focus on the ones that really work," Sam Houston State University economics professor Don Freeman said.

In 2006, more than 17,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, an average of one every half-hour.

The law considers drivers legally drunk if they have a blood alcohol content of .08.

Freeman looked into whether changing the blood alcohol content from .10 to .08 has made a difference.

"You look at the states before the law was passed and you look at the states after the law was passed," Freeman said. "You look to see if the number of deaths are any different after the law was passed and the answer is no."

For a male weighing 180 pounds it only takes four drinks to reach a BAC of .08, for a woman weighing the same it only takes three drinks to hit the limit.

Freeman says the consumption doesn't equal the punishment.

"Too strict of laws is an infringement on our freedoms and our ability to live our lives," Freeman said. "Too little and we don't get what we want. What we want is the right mix."

Those in favor of the current BAC law disagree.

"People that blow a .08 had a higher content than that when the accident occurred," Murray Milford with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said. "Many times it is minutes or hours before the alcohol is checked."

Like Milford, Freeman says he too wants to stop drunk drivers, but says the current law is not working.

"If you are going to have limits, and you certainly are, then have the penalties increase with the blood alcohol content," Freeman said. "That way you identify the people that are causing most of the problems."

Both Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Freeman say they are for Administrative License Revocation, a process that suspends the driver licenses of people arrested for driving drunk.

Texas passed the law in 1995, but is only one of a few states that has it.

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