Lowering the limit

Saturday, March 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There is a push in the Oklahoma legislature to lower the legal blood alcohol limit for Oklahoma drivers. The bill hits the State House this month. Insiders say it will probably pass without much debate, but there are some that have problems with how the issue has unfolded. KOTV's Sean Mossman has been following the story, and has the details.

The State Senate passed a bill that will lower a driver's legal blood alcohol level. While Oklahomans can currently be jailed for driving with a blood alcohol content of .10, the limit could be dropped to .08. It's a move that Mothers Against Drunk Driving has supported for years. Ray Hollingshead with MADD says, "I wouldn't say that .10 is outrageous, but we're still allowing people to get away with behavior that is very dangerous. I think .08 is a much more sensible level." Governor Frank Keating has said publicly that he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk, and several senators say that it will. That's mainly because the state stands to lose nearly $60-million in federal highway money if it doesn't pass.

The state will receive a $2-million bonus if the law is enacted this year. And, while you'd be hard-pressed to find a lawmaker who's against the idea of stricter drunk driving laws, there are some that say they're not happy with the feds forcing their hands. State Senator Mike Morgan says, "we get mandates from congress as to what we have to do to make sure that we don't lose federal funding. It's loss of state control. It really is. It's an age old issue and I'm sure it will always be one."

The state could always refuse to bow to federal pressure, but the price tag may be too high. Oklahoma has thumbed its nose at the feds before, when it refused to enact mandatory helmets for motorcycle riders. That only cost about $3-million. At about $60-million for the drunk driving law the impact would be much greater.