Beverage group bungles message on interlocks
There is a legitimate controversy about whether to require ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of first-time drunk-driving offenders, and the alcoholic beverage industry has every right to weigh in. But this most recent communication just shows how obtuse the booze industry can be about this deadly problem.
See if you can spot what's outrageously wrong about this communication:
Today and tomorrow, bills (H.B. 360, H.B. 1012, S.B. 803) that would require all drunk driving offenders in Maryland - even first time offenders with low blood alcohol levels - to get an ignition interlock (in-car breathalyzer) will be heard in the Maryland General Assembly.
My organization, a restaurant trade association, opposes this legislation, as we believe that judges should have discretion when sentencing marginal, first-time offenders.
Here is a press release we put out last year when this legislation was considered (it failed to pass): http://abionline.org/news_detail.cfm?id=562.
However, we do support Judiciary Chairman Delegate Joseph Vallario’s legislation, H.B. 1276. His bill gives judges the discretion to require a low-BAC, first time DUI offender to install an interlock, while still mandating interlocks for repeat offenders and offenders with high blood alcohol levels.
Please call or email me to set up an interview. Learn more at www.InterlockFacts.com.
American Beverage Institute
Thank you for your offer of an interview. I might yet take you up on it. But first I want to share this note with my readers, with the modest question: What on earth are you thinking?
Several times in your note you attempt to minimize the dangers of driving with a blood-alcohol content between .08 and .14 -- describing it as "low blood alcohol levels," "marginal" and low-BAC.
Now I will stipulate that a driver with a .08 blood alcohol is not necessarily falling-down drunk, but there's no way on the planet that such a motorist has a low blood alcohol level. Far from being "marginal," a .08 blood alcohol level clearly qualifies as drunk under the law of all 50 states. (In Maryland, .07 is illegal but carries a lesser charge.)
I realize there are elements of your industry that have never accepted the .08 standard. In fact, your lobby now seems to be spreading the line that one has to hit .15 -- the standard of many decades ago -- to be guilty of more than a technical violation.
But outside the closed circles of the industry, you make yourself look absurd when you dismiss less-than-extreme intoxication as "low BAC." It would be a stretch to call even a legal .05-.06 "low BAC." That looks a lot more like "danger zone" to me.
Here's a reminder: Anything .07 or more is by law "high-alcohol" in Maryland. If you want to create a distinction for .15 or above, "high BAC" is not the term to use. How about the technical "drunk as a skunk?"
PS: Here's how much you can drink in an hour if you're a 200-lb. man and still qualify as a "low blood alcohol" driver under the beverage institute's definition:
6 pints of beer
8 glasses of wine
4 dry martinis