New law to lower blood alcohol limit to 0.08


Kara Christensen & Nathan Hopper

Pop quiz: When you down a beer or slam a shot, do you know what it does to your blood alcohol level?

On July 1, you’d better.

Courtesy of a stricter law, the legal blood alcohol limit will drop from 0.1 to 0.08.

The tougher stance on drunken driving stems from a federal requirement mandating that all states conform, or they lose federal highway money. Gov. Bill Janklow signed the measure into law last week. For South Dakota, not signing would have meant the loss of $3.5 million.

But what few people know is that you can be arrested for a DUI even if your BAC is as low as 0.05, if you appear impaired, under the stricter law. At 0.08 and above, there’s zero tolerance. The arresting officer has discretion from 0.05 to 0.08 BAC.

The Collegian sent one reporter to the University Police Department and another downtown on “Thirsty Thursday” to find out how the law will affect SDSU.

“It’s possible that the 0.08 will help deter maybe some borderline people,” Sgt. Michael Kilber of UPD said.

Kilber teaches the department’s drug and alcohol awareness programs.

Longtime Skinner’s Pub bartender and night shift manager Jason Ratcliff estimated that the difference between 0.08 BAC and 1.0 was little more than one extra drink an hour.

“I’ve seen so many people driving home drunk and come in the next night with a DUI,” Ratcliff said. “Usually, I say, ‘Hey, I hope you get a ride home.’ I see a lot more people doing a lot stupider things than I ever did.”

However, Kilber predicted the law will only have a minimal effect on the number of arrests for DUI, which is driving under the influence of alcohol. He said the change puts drunken driving on the news, which increases awareness.

“Maybe the only change it’s going to make is the general education of the college population,” he said. “Education in its own right is just as good as legislation.”

People who drink are often surprised when they find out their blood alcohol content, he said. For his classes, Kilber uses an educational program at

After entering body weight and gender, users click through a night of drinking. They choose which drinks to have and how long it takes to finish them. A clock and blood alcohol reading are continuously updated.

For example, a female weighing 120 pounds should stop after approximately 2.5 beers to obey the 0.08 limit.

“It’s a good program and it’ll help people,” Kibler said. “I really believe most people would be surprised.”

College students will drink whether they’re 21 or not, but drinking and driving is a serious offense, he said, so the change was a good one.

Drunk driving is easy to avoid.

“You just don’t drive,” Kilber said. “Walk. Call a cab. Call someone to pick you up.”

Though few statistics exist, the swaying and swaggering pilgrimage of late night revelers slowly making their way home seems to indicate that at least a few people are staying off the roads?at least for driving.

Ratcliff, who was arrested for DUI, said that the inconveniences are paltry compared to the fine and lasting consequences.

“It’s a minor aggravation to find your car in the morning,” he said.

“The police here are very hard, and it’s not like they’ve ever changed. They don’t tolerate hunting after drinking, so why driving? I don’t even drive after one beer.”

Kilber pointed to increased insurance payments and paying a fine as further reasons to avoid drinking and driving.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the more stringent laws could reduce drink driving by up to eight percent.

“I do”t think the law will affect college student drinking habits,” senior John Trana said. “However, we’ll probably see an increase in students receiving citations.”