Magazine article State Legislatures

New Report Evaluates High BAG Laws. (on First Reading)

Magazine article State Legislatures

New Report Evaluates High BAG Laws. (on First Reading)

Article excerpt

States are taking a new approach to getting drunk drivers off the roads. in fact, some are punishing intoxicated drivers based on how drunk they are--not on how many times they've been caught.

To measure the effects, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released a study that compiles data from the 29 states adopting these laws. Most of them reported few problems in their tiered sanctioning systems and indicated there was a positive effect on drunk driving enforcement.

Traditionally, drunk driver punishment has been based on the number of prior offenses. The new, so-called "tiered sanctioning" systems base the sentence on the intoxication level, even if it is the first arrest. High blood alcohol levels range from .15 to .20 BAG. States have either created a separate offense, such as aggravated drunk driving, or increased the type and severity of penalties for driving while extremely drunk.

However, some states reported that tiered systems may encourage more drivers to refuse blood alcohol tests. To address that concern, Maine increased the penalties for test refusals. In Minnesota, refusal rates have declined since the high BAG law was adopted in 1998, but other states, including Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington, have noted increases in the number of refusals as an overall trend. …

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