Should "Buzzed" Driving Be Illegal?

Austin police chief among those calling for "driving while ability impaired" charge

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some call for legislators to create a "driving while ability impaired" category of drunken driving.

    A Texas police chief is asking legislators for a category of drunken driving that would affect drivers who are under the current legal limit.

    Austin Police Chief Art Acevado pushed for the idea at the state capitol. A "driving while ability impaired" charge would allow officers to penalize drivers with a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.07.

    The current limit for a DWI in Texas is 0.08. Acevado said he wants to give law enforcement another tool and does not support lowering the DWI limit, the Austin Statesman reported.

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    Some call for legislators to create a "driving while ability impaired" category of drunken driving.

    "I think what they are trying to find is a lesser offense, whereas if you are not legally intoxicated under current standard, there's a lesser standard," Dallas attorney Clint David said.

    Supporters said they are in favor of any law that discourages people who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel.

    "At 0.08, you could still be drunk enough to have an accident and kill somebody," Dallas driver Karen Clark said.

    But other people question how such a law would be enforced.

    "I think they would be stopping pretty much everybody -- everybody who goes to a restaurant and has a drink," Dallas driver Dee Dee Holloman said.

    Specific DWAI penalties have not been proposed, the Austin Statesman reported.

    "I think what's really going to have to be determined is if someone fits within the slot of a DWAI," David said. "Are they, in fact, impaired such that it does effect their driving? It's as much a medical question as it is a legal question."

    The amount of alcohol a person must consume to be over the current legal limit of 0.08 varies from person to person.

    According to calculations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 160-pound man who drinks three beers in two hours would have a blood alcohol content of 0.05, the proposed threshold for DWAI. But two mixed drinks over two hours would put a 120-pound woman over 0.05.

    The Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee has been looking the state's DWI laws, the Austin Statesman reported. The next legislative session begins Jan. 11.

    Acevado said even if legislators don't pass such a law, he is glad to have people talking about drinking and driving.

    A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving said the group is waiting to learn more about the proposal before they endorse it.

    New York and Colorado have "driving while ability impaired" laws.