Originally created 03/14/03

DUI bill excludes revoking of license

COLUMBIA - A Senate bill that would reduce the legal limit for a driver's blood-alcohol level doesn't go far enough to combat drunken driving, critics of the legislation say.

The bill reduces to 0.08 percent from 0.10 percent the blood-alcohol level at which a driver is presumed to be drunk. But a provision requiring the state to immediately revoke a suspected drunken-driver's license was not included in the bill that the Senate began debating Thursday.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said he had to compromise on the license revocation to get senators to agree to a lower blood-alcohol limit.

"I would never get this bill through the Senate if the Administrative License Revocation stays in," he said.

Currently, licenses are immediately revoked for 30 days for drivers whose blood-alcohol level is 0.15 percent. That provision would be eliminated by the Senate's bill.

Mr. Martin said the federal government is requiring states to reduce the allowable blood-alcohol level to 0.08 percent. Also, states that revoke licenses of suspected drunken-drivers immediately must lower that standard to 0.08 percent.

But Mr. Martin said there was no way his colleagues would lower the limit for revoking licenses, so his bill eliminates that provision.

The federal government is pushing the lower level by threatening to take away $60 million in highway funds from South Carolina. The state already has lost $1.8 million in incentives by not going along with new federal drunken-driving standards.

Donna Carter, theincoming president of the Darlington County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the Senate bill is unacceptable.

The Administrative License Revocation is a valuable deterrent to drunken driving, said Harold Watson, the director of programs and development for the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.

Forty states have provisions that immediately revoke licenses of drivers who have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or 0.10 percent. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities in those states have decreased up to 9 percent, Mr. Watson said.


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