Thursday, May 16, 2013

Down to 0.05? I still remember the brawl for 0.08 intoxication standard

It seems the federal government would like to have a uniform standard for what constitutes driving a car while intoxicated, although all I can see happening as a result is an intense politically-partisan brawl.

WHITE: Doing further study
For some, I’m sure it will be perceived as the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board is behind the effort. They’re going to claim this is some sort of local issue, and that having a “national” standard puts us all one step closer to “Socialism!!!”

HECK, THAT MAKES no sense in this context. But it makes no sense when they spew it against the incumbent president. So some people are just going to cry “Communism!” whenever they can.

But the idea that Illinois will scrap its legal standard of a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 for intoxication and allow a national standard of 0.05 to replace it just strikes me as a stretch.

Because I can remember being in Springfield back in the 1990s when it was one of those perennial issues – lowering the legal intoxication standard from 0.10 to 0.08. That was considered a radical step, and way too many people were eager to believe that such a change would constitute the criminalization of social drinking.

Someone who stops off for a drink or two after work would suddenly find themselves susceptible to every cop who feels compelled to make their local quota for issuing tickets.

I CAN REMEMBER how, year after year, this bill came up for a vote and went down to defeat. A part of me is still amazed that it passed in 1997 – although a large part of that was due to an influx of new legislators when the Illinois General Assembly ended its two-year period of domination by the Republicans (yeah, imagine that!).

There were new legislators who hadn’t heard years of rhetoric about how bad an idea it was to get tougher on intoxication, and just voted the way they felt about the issue.

It even ended up producing one of the Pate-isms – a verbal blurb by then-Senate President James “Pate” Philip after he too wound up voting for the change to 0.08 even though he had been one of the concept’s most outspoken critics.

PHILIP: A thought for every issue
“Sometimes, you just got to do what the people want,” is what he said. What a revelation! A legislator representing his constituents’ desires – rather than those of the special interest groups.

IT SEEMS MIRACULOUS when put in the context of a government that likes the status quo and is always afraid of going too far when it comes to imposing change.

That latter sentiment is what I suspect we’re going to hear with regards to the idea of a 0.05 legal standard for intoxication.

You have to admit that it sounds nice – 0.05 is more of a round number than 0.08. Although there probably is some truth to the idea that in people who have little body mass, 0.05 could be reached with just a drink or two.

But then again, people with little body mass probably already realize they can’t consume as much alcohol as other people – or they’re willing to ignore that fact and probably need a harsher rule to keep them off the roads while impaired.

SOME PEOPLE MAY think it is some God-given right to be able to consume alcoholic beverages when they want. Personally, I just don’t see it as a big deal, and certainly not enough of an issue to hold off a public safety measure.

But others aren’t going to see it that way. We’re going to hear the nonsense-talk about how government thinks it can watch over us, rather than trusting us to behave ourselves.

Trying to avoid more scenes like this
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White told the Chicago Sun-Times the issue needs “further study,” although that’s just seeking political cover.

Because White has been around the political scene to know as well as anyone else just how much of a stink will be forthcoming when this issue undergoes its serious debate.


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