The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on May 14, 2013 calling on states to reduce the BAC limit to .05 for driving under the influence. The report, Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving, notes that recent efforts have reduced the number of deaths from alcohol related crashes by 53% from 21,113 in 1982 to 9,878 in 2011. The NTSB states that the success of these efforts has plateaued citing that although the annual number of fatalities has declined since 1995, about one-third of highway deaths involves an alcohol impaired driver. The NTSB argues that if “traditional methods are no longer reducing the problem, new –and possibly challenging– initiatives must be considered.”
In addition to reducing the BAC level to .05, the NTSB recommends that:
- law enforcement use high-visibility enforcement through saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints;
- states increase the use of ignition interlock devices;
- states establish driver’s license revocation for drivers arrested for DUI; and
- target repeat offenders.
We were asked to comment on these recommendations for a story on KOAA’s (Channel 5) 10 PM newscast on May 14th. Our assessment is that these recommendations, if enacted, would have little effect on drivers in Colorado. Not only can drivers in Colorado be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), our state also has a law against Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). DWAI is defined in Colorado as driving when one is impaired to the slightest degree. A driver is presumed to be impaired if he has a BAC of .05 to .08. A driver would not lose his license under the Express Consent Law with a BAC below .08, but DWAI is an 8 point offense and depending on what else is on the driver’s record, could cause a point suspension. View the KOAA story at https://www.koaa.com/news/proposal-calls-for-tighter-dui-regulations/
Colorado already revokes a driver’s license if he has a BAC of .08 or higher within two hours of driving. This will result in a 9 month revocation for a first excess alcohol BAC. That driver can reinstate his license early (after 1 month) if he puts an interlock in his vehicle. The law in Colorado requires that a driver have the interlock for two years if the BAC was .17 or higher. However, the Colorado General Assembly passed a new law last month that will reduce that BAC level to .15.
The possible penalties for a DUI and DWAI are similar. They both carry possible jail sentences, fines, useful public service and successful completion of alcohol classes. The penalties for DWAI are slightly lower than those for a DUI.
In our opinion, the only significant change Colorado drivers would face from the NTSB’s recommendations is if the express consent law was also changed so a driver’s license is revoked with a BAC of .05 instead of the current BAC of .08.
We will have to see if NTSB’s recommendations gain any support. The laws involving drunk driving have changed dramatically in the last few years. This has become a very difficult area for the average person to navigate without a lawyer. If you have been charged with DUI in Colorado, please call Daniel, Thom & Katzman for a free consultation.