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On drunken driving, .08 makes sense -- still; Road safety: Legislative committees shouldn't again bottle up bill to toughen DWI standard.


COMMITTEES of the Maryland legislature should not again be the place drunken driving legislation expires.

Medical evidence shows the average driver's ability is seriously impaired when blood-alcohol content reaches 0.08. That equates to about four drinks in an hour for a 180-pound man or three for a 140-pound woman. Sixteen states, including Virginia, and the District of Columbia now use 0.08 as their standard for drunken driving convictions.

President Clinton is renewing his push for a national 0.08 standard, moved by the death of a 9-year-old Carroll County girl killed while waiting for her bus by a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol level.

Yet in the House of Delegates, opponents in the Judiciary Committee last year bowed to pressure from liquor store, bar and restaurant owners who worry that a tougher law could hurt business. By one vote, the committee blocked the bill from advancing to a floor vote.

Legislation to toughen Maryland's driving-while-intoxicated standard from 0.10 to 0.08 is set to return to the House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Appropriations committees.

About 34 percent of 671 Maryland road fatalities were alcohol-related in 1997. That's better than the national figure of 41 percent. But legislators can't be satisfied as long as impaired motorists are getting behind the wheel and people are dying as a result.


House Judiciary

Present members who voted against bill in '98: Ann Marie Doory, D (vice chair); Thomas E. Hutchins, R; Donald E. Murphy, R; Anthony J. O'Donnell, R; Dana Lee Dembrow, D; Emmett C. Burns Jr., D; David M. Valderrama, D; Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D

Present members who voted for bill in '98: Pauline H. Menes, D; Sharon M. Grosfeld, D; Carol S. Petzold, D

No vote: Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D (chair)

New members: Carmen Amedori, R; David G. Boschert, R; Lisa A. Gladden, D; John A. Giannetti Jr., D; Kevin Kelly, D; Charles E. Barkley, D; Joseph M. Getty, R; Melony Ghee Griffith, D; Robert A. Zirkin, D. Vacancy to be filled.

Senate Judicial Proceedings

Bill did not reach committee in '98. Walter M. Baker, D (chair); Leo E. Green, D (vice chair); Jennie M. Forehand, D; Ralph M. Hughes, D; Larry E. Haines, R; Philip C. Jimeno, D; Norman R. Stone Jr., D; Richard F. Colburn, R; Timothy R. Ferguson, R

New members: Clarence M. Mitchell IV, D; Alexander X. Mooney, R

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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