NJ Legislature must act now on bill to lower blood alcohol level in order to save more lives

Dear Editor:

Last October, former President Clinton signed a bill into law that established a 0.08 percent as the national blood alcohol concentration limit to charge drunk drivers with this crime. END DWI, the grass-roots organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving, strongly support this legislation. But the New Jersey Legislature has not moved to lower the state’s 0.10 percent level as yet. States that do not conform to this federal law, starting October 1, 2003, will begin losing significant federal highway funds.

The Legislature should not dawdle and wait to the last minute before acting and thus be responsible for the deaths and injuries that could have been avoided in that period.

Most New Jerseyans support the 0.08 percent level. The scientific and statistical evidence that a 0.08 percent level lowers deaths and injuries has been proven.

END DWI is now holding its annual student poster essay contest whose theme is “Steer Into Summer: Safe and Sober.” The delay in passage of this bill could be a signal to students and the public that New Jersey is steering on the obstructed road set up by the liquor and restaurant industries.

On May 20, 2001, END DWI will hold a special Tree Planting and Rededication Ceremony at our Drunk Driving Victims Grove of Trees and Path in Van Saun Park. This area was designed as a place of reflection and comfort for the families and friends of victims of drunk driving. Does the Legislature’s dawdling give any comfort to these people?

END DWI hosts an annual Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance where the names of drunk driving victims are read. Will the lists be longer than necessary because of the delay in the bill’s enactment?

Drunk Driving court cases are monitored by END DWI members. They see prosecutors, judges and juries working diligently to make it clear to perpetrators that their lawbreaking brings stiff punishment. Does not the Legislator’s inaction send an opposite signal?

The fears voiced by the liquor and restaurant industries that have fostered the Legislature’s inaction have been overstated. When the drinking age was raised in 1984 to 21, similar fears were expressed but there were no appreciable harmful effects on the liquor and restaurant industries and many lives were saved.

Adjusting the blood alcohol level will have the same results. It is time for the Legislature to act quickly.

Florence Nass,


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