California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) makes it unlawful to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 precent or higher. If your BAC is .08 percent or greater, there is a "presumption" that your ability to drive is impaired. This law is consistent with every state in the country, with the exception of Utah. California lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce the amount of alcohol you can legally have in your system while driving. The new proposed bill would lower that level to .05 percent, similar to that in Utah. Those who support the bill say the current BAC limit of .08 percent is too high and leaves more drivers impaired, which results in more deadly crashes. Assembly Bill 1713, or Liam's Law, is named after a 15-month old who was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2016.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been encouraging states to move to a .05 percent blood alcohol level as the legal limit since 2013, which is the standard in over 100 countries around the world. In its 2013 recommendations, NTSB concluded “that BAC levels higher than .05 are viewed by respected traffic safety and public health organizations around the world as posing unacceptable risk for driving, and more than 100 countries have already established per se BAC limits at or below .05.”
Opponents of the measure feel that a .05 legal limit will be detrimental to safe, casual drinkers, who simply have a drink or two with dinner or during a ball game, most of whom do not feel any effects of alcohol that would impair their ability to drive safely. Opponents also contend that lowering the legal limit does not combat the problem of the number of drivers with high BAC levels, who are the drivers that cause the majority of DUI accidents. They cite to statistics in California, and elsewhere, that show the majority of DUI accidents involve drivers with a BAC over .15 percent.
We will carefully follow Assembly Bill 1713 as it makes its way through the California legislature this year. Updates will be provided on our website and blog.