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Officials have yet to see major impact of new alcohol policy

October 03, 2001
By: Sarah Molina
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri is gearing up for the second weekend under a new alcohol policy, although officials agree the new law has not yet had a major impact.

The law, which lawmakers have tried for several years to pass and went into effect at midnight on Sept. 28, lowered the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers from 0.1 to 0.08 percent.

Since Sept. 29, a total of 61 arrests have been made by the Missouri State Highway Patrol due to impaired driving, according to Lt. Tim Hull. Only five of those were by drivers whose blood-alcohol levels were between 0.08 and 0.1 percent and would not have been considered illegal by the previous law.

However, Hull said the individuals would have been arrested regardless of their blood-alcohol level because they were all clearly impaired.

Currently, Boone County has not had any busts from the lower DWI level. The Columbia Police Department has issued seven DWIs since Sept. 29, but all the drivers had blood-alcohol levels above the previous limit of 0.1 percent, according to Lyn Woolford, an East District Traffic Officer for the city police.

Although there have been few arrests from the legislation, officials believe the change will come in deterring people from drinking so much if they know it will take less alcohol for them to be considered legally drunk.

"The big difference will be by getting information out to the public," Hull said. "It will be a deterrent to drink one less alcoholic beverage."

According to the State Highway Patrol, for a 180-pound man to obtain a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, he must consume 4.5 drinks in one hour versus six drinks to reach a level of 0.1 percent. For a woman who weighs 130 pounds, it only takes 3.5 drinks to reach a level of 0.08 percent and approximately 4.25 drinks to reach 0.1 percent.

The new legislation also requires second time drunken driving offenders to serve at least five days in jail and 10 days doing community service in comparison to the previous law requiring two days jail time and 10 days of community service.

In addition, the bill requires drivers who are arrested with blood-alcohol levels above 0.15 percent to seek treatment and implements a $25 fee for those arrested to go toward spinal cord research.

Missouri is the 27th state to enact the legislation.

While officials say it is still too early to predict the long-term effects of the new law, they site decreased alcohol related accidents in other states that have already passed the bill and hope the new policy will make Missouri's roads safer from drunken drivers.