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Is 1 drink too many? DWI laws are becoming more restrictive

The number of deaths from alcohol-impaired drivers has decreased over the past 30 years, yet drunk-driving crashes still took the lives of almost 11,000 people in the United States in 2017. This continuing problem is causing one state to pass tougher laws that lower the acceptable blood alcohol content 40 percent from the current limit accepted in Texas and other states nationwide. Drivers over this limit face severe consequences from DWI charges.

Since 2000, all states have accepted a maximum blood alcohol content of .08 for adult drivers. One state passed a law that has lowered its maximum BAC limit to .05. While this is the lowest limit of any state in this country, many other countries already have used this as their maximum. There are even some nations that have limits as low as .02. Supporters note that these countries enjoy just as much alcohol consumption as the United States but with fewer associated deaths.

Some supporters claim that this new law, which just took effect in Utah, will save many lives each year, but others feel it will have too many negative consequences. Many feel the lower limits are too severe, claiming that some with low body weight wouldn't be able to have a single drink without being over the legal limit even though they wouldn't be significantly impaired. Some critics worry about the heavy consequences of DWI arrest that would be placed on people with low levels who aren't really a danger. Still others are concerned with overburdening law enforcement. Arresting and processing that many additional drivers would overtax police forces, causing their attention to be taken from more serious situations.

For now, it will be up to each individual state to decide whether to continue with their current legal blood alcohol limits or to impose tougher regulations. If Congress passes legislation as it did in 2000 when a nationwide limit of .08 was accepted, states may have to decide to either accept new lower limits or be denied federal highway funding. Until changes are made, drivers in Texas can continue to have a blood alcohol limit of .08. Any driver that goes over that limit may find him or herself facing DWI charges. In that event, the driver should immediately secure legal representation to preserve all applicable legal rights and pursue the best possible outcome.

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