Minnesota, faced with a $4 billion deficit, can choose to save as much as $25 million a year from federal aid-highway construction funds simply by lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit from .10 percent to .08 percent -- a decision the Legislature failed to make last year and is now reconsidering.
A federal highway-aid construction fund loss is important to avoid, but if the law did change, the increase in the amount of DWI arrests would make the already congested criminal system that much more overwhelming. Lawmakers might have to reduce the number of people in jail for other offenses or build more jail space.
Not only that, alcohol merchants would stand to lose sales as people grow more nervous about having that second, third, or fourth beer before driving. The .08 percent is, after all, an easier number to achieve.
On the other hand, if the law succeeded at discouraging people from drinking as much before driving as they would have without the lowered limit, it might be worth the loss of revenues and the increase in arrests. Even the slightest amount of alcohol in the system dampers reflexes. If the .08 percent deterred some people from downing one less drink per outing, lives could be saved.
There's a chance the new law would fail to affect peoples' drinking patterns, but that hasn't been the case in other areas. Data gathered show that states with lowered alcohol limits have reduced DWI related fatalities.
Of course, the roads would be even safer if the limit were dropped to zero percent, a number most would consider unreasonable -- a line must be drawn somewhere.
Whichever way the decision goes, much stands to be gained and lost. It all depends on where lawmakers' priorities lie.
-- Crookston Daily Times
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