LANSING — State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) announced at a press conference today the introduction of legislation to lower Michigan’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold and to require ignition interlock devices (IID) for all first time convicted drunk drivers. House Bills 4420-21 would lower the acceptable BAC to .05 from the current .08, while House Bill 4419 would make Michigan the 34th state with an all-offender ignition interlock law.
“We must address drunk driving, which is a completely avoidable epidemic,” said Rep. Hammoud. “As a former public health professional, I am motivated by facts and statistics, and as a legislator I know our current policies in place to prevent drunk driving are not working, which is why we must do more. The loss of the Abbas family, a beautiful family of five, due to a drunk driver, has further motivated a community of advocates to step up and propose real solutions backed up by the scientific community. These critical proposals will do more to prevent drinking and driving, and ultimately save lives.”
Studies show the impairment present at BAC levels below 0.08 is significant, adding seconds to response time. In the case of traffic scenarios, this is often the difference between life and death. According to the Michigan State Police, alcohol and drug-related fatal crashes remain a significant traffic safety issue, with approximately 44.9 percent of total fatal crashes related to alcohol or drug impairment. A 0.05 BAC would result in an estimated 11 percent decline in fatal alcohol crashes and save approximately 1500 lives annually in the United States. Studies also indicate an IID is more effective than a suspended license alone, as 50-75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. Those using an IID are significantly less likely to reoffend. Rep. Hammoud’s package was introduced following the death of the Abbas family, a family of five from Michigan killed earlier this year when a drunk driver collided head-on with their vehicle on 1-75.
Rep. Hammoud was joined at the event by representatives from a number of stakeholder groups, including Helen Witty, Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President.
“Today, we are proud to stand with Michigan to support this proposal that research shows will save lives,” said Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter Helen Marie was killed by a drunk and marijuana-impaired driver while rollerblading on a bike path. “Research shows that critical driving skills are impaired at 0.05 BAC, significantly increasing the risk of a horrible, 100 percent preventable crash. We want to do anything we can to support states that are trying to stop these tragedies and keep drunk drivers off the road.”
In addition to Ms. Witty, Rep. Hammoud was joined by Nicholas J. Smith, National Safety Council Interim President and CEO, Jennifer Homendy, National Transportation and Safety Board Member and Tara Gill, Senior Director of Advocacy and State Legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.