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Will Wisconsin lower its BAC limit?

State politicians have an interest in enacting laws that protect the safety of their constituents. While some of such laws penalize certain behaviors for individuals who engage in criminal activity, other laws sanction people who make poor choices and harm others as unintended consequences.

One area of the law that politicians are currently debating is the state's blood alcohol concentration limit. Wisconsin has enacted a .08 limit but dialogue between politicians, special interest groups and the public suggests that this limit has the potential to change. Federal transportation experts have suggested that the states lower their permissible BAC levels to .05, which is nearly half of what Wisconsin currently permits.

Not everyone is supportive of the recommendation. State politician Jim Ott has voiced his opposition to lowering the legal BAC limit but has endorsed more serious penalties for some drunken driving offenses. Several prominent interest groups have also spoken out against the proposal, noting that public attitudes toward drunken driving have changed over time and that better options, such as safe ride programs, may permit individuals who drink to safely reach their destinations.

While Wisconsin residents are truly more knowledgeable now than they were several decades ago about the dangers of driving while intoxicated, many people are still seriously injured and killed at the hands of inebriated drivers. Though tougher penalties on alcohol-related driving offenses may serve as examples to others who casually drink and drive, problem drivers will continue to exist and will put others at risk because of their negligent actions. Regardless of whether the state decides to modify its current blood alcohol concentration limits, individuals who are harmed by drunken drivers will continue to have the right to pursue damages against the parties who caused their injuries.

Source: NBC 26, "NBC26 Special Report: Lowering the Legal Limit," July 16, 2013

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