California Could Lower Legal Blood Alcohol Level


California is considering making some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the nation. Two bills were recently introduced in the state legislature that would reform drunk driving laws in California.

The first is SB 545, which would, if passed, require all people who are convicted of a DUI to have interlocking ignition devices installed in their vehicle. These devices are installed to prevent someone from driving when they’ve been drinking. The car won’t start if the driver blows into the device and they don’t pass a breathalyzer for alcohol use.

The second bill, which is AB 1713, would lower the legal drinking limit from a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.05. That would mean that for women under 160 pounds, they could have no more than one or two drinks in an hour to legally drive. For men under 200 pounds, no more than two drinks in that period.

According to State Sen. Jerry Hill, a thousand people are killed in the state every year because of drunk drivers, and 20,000 people are injured.

Utah is the only other state that has currently lowered its drunk driving level to 0.05, although some other states around the nation are proposing it.

What else is there to know about blood alcohol levels in general?

What is Blood Alcohol Concentration?

Some people are unsure of what blood alcohol concentration or BAC is, and how it’s measured. BAC is the percent of alcohol that’s present in someone’s bloodstream. If someone has the following blood alcohol concentration levels, you might see specific effects:

  • If you have a BAC from 0.01 to 0.03, you might have an elevated mood, but no very noticeable effects of alcohol. However, if you are under 21 and you have a 0.01 percent BAC, it’s illegal to drive or bike.
  • With BACs of 0.04 to 0.06, which is where the proposed legal limit in California would fall, someone might feel relaxed,and they might experience some mild impairment related to their memory and reasoning abilities.
  • If someone has a 0.07 to 0.08 BAC, which is the legal limit for driving in most states, they might be mildly impaired, especially with regard to their speech and vision.
  • From 0.10 to 0.12, someone will likely show signs of being significantly impaired, and they have problems with motor coordination and slurred speech.
  • Ranging from 0.13 to 0.20 is likely going to make someone very noticeably intoxicated,and they may be described as “sloppy drunk.” Someone may start to experience loss of balance and nausea.
  • When someone reaches a BAC of 0.25, they are considered extremely intoxicated and they may even need help walking at all, and from 0.35 to 0.40, most people will experience loss of consciousness,and they may go into a coma.

While these numbers can give a general overview of BAC, many variables specifically affect it. For example, gender, whether or not someone ate before drinking, and body weight can all play a role in what someone’s BAC actually is.

How is BAC Determined?

BAC can be determined by one of three types of tests which are breath, urine or blood. Blood testing tends to be the most accurate, but it can often be the most difficult to do. A professional has to take the blood, and it’s time-consuming to get the results. A urine test isn’t very accurate, so it’s not often done.

Breath testing tends to be the most common test, especially in drunk driving situations. Law enforcement professionals can use portable breathalyzers and conduct these tests right at the side of the road. They are usually admissible in court as well.

What are Standard Drink Sizes?

One big issue, especially in the U.S. is that people hear that they can have one or two drinks in an hour and still be potentially below the legal limit. However, their concept of what a standard drink size is may be inaccurate.

For example, one bottle of beer is one standard drink if it has 5 percent alcohol. Eight ounces of malt liquor at 7 percent alcohol is considered a standard drink, as is a 5-ounce wine pour with 12 percent alcohol. With hard liquor, only 1.5 ounces is one drink, with 40 percent alcohol.

For many people, especially with more states looking at laws like the ones proposed in California, the better option is not drinking at all if they know they’re going to be driving.


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