clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

White House backs toughened DUI standards

Brenda and Randy Frazier know that drivers with less than the legal limit of alcohol in their bloodstreams can be dangerous.

Their 9-year-old daughter, Ashley, was struck and killed by just such a driver three days before Christmas 1995 as she waited for a bus ride to school.The Westminster, Md., couple is now lobbying for legislation that would force two-thirds of the states to toughen their blood-alcohol content laws or risk losing federal highway money.

The Clinton administration endorsed the bill Thursday.

"The president is ready today to sign this legislation," said Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater.

The bill would require states to define drunken driving using a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, instead of the more common level of 0.10 percent. Seventeen states, including Utah, already use the lower limit.

"Please believe me, and believe the experts, 0.08 is a lot of alcohol and a lot of impairment," a tearful Brenda Frazier said at a news conference.

Some opponents contend the bill would trample on states' rights.

The American Beverage Institute said some states have rejected the lower limit because it doesn't work and would punish responsible social drinkers.

"When people see the facts, they will operate as most state legislatures have operated, and they will reject 0.08 as meaningless," said Rick Berman, general counsel for the organization that represents restaurant operators.

Under the bill, all states would have to adopt the 0.08 percent limit by 2000 or risk losing a portion of their federal highway dollars.

The change would mean the difference between five drinks - such as 12-ounce beers or 5-ounce glasses of wine - and four drinks in one hour for a 170-pound man with an empty stomach. A 137-pound woman would reach 0.08 percent after three drinks in an hour, sponsors said.

"Nothing in this bill asks people to stop drinking. It tells drunks to stop driving," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a prime sponsor.