Vice Squad
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Feds Get Their Way on Blood Alcohol Content

Until the mid-1980s, different US states had different minimum drinking ages (MDA) for alcohol: in my home state, Maryland, the drinking age was 18 for beer and wine and 21 for hard liquor. But the federal government, responding in large measure to pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more-or-less forced states to adopt an MDA of 21 by threatening to withhold highway funds from states with lower drinking ages. (It is this federal "usurpation" of state policy that Colorado Senate hopeful Pete Coors controversially complained about, though he also joined it to a seeming endorsement of an MDA of 18.)

The same highway-fund hostage has recently succeeded in federalizing another alcohol policy: the blood alcohol content that constitutes prima facie drunk driving will soon be no higher than .08 in every state. Delaware, the last holdout, capitulated to the federal pressure this week. Isn't it a pity that the states cannot be trusted to make good vice laws for their citizens?

Following the Delaware action, MADD issued this statement:
Statement for attribution to:
Wendy J. Hamilton, National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

At a time when our country is celebrating its independence and the nation often sees the most alcohol-related traffic fatalities of any other holiday, there has been tremendous success on the anti-drunk driving front. Every state has now passed the illegal .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) law for drunk driving. This means that approximately 500 lives a year will be saved and more loved ones will be around to join in next year's July Fourth parade.

So, as the nation reflects on a starry sky full of brightly colored fireworks, sings patriotic songs and shares a special time with family and friends this holiday, we thank the lawmakers and American citizens for their work in seeing that the .08 BAC law was passed nationwide. A dream that began in 2000, is now a reality and everyone is much safer for it.

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