Faison Calls for Lowering DUI Standard to .05 Blood Alcohol

State Rep. Jeremy Faison says he will sponsor legislation next year to lower the legal standard for a presumption of drunken driving in Tennessee from 0.08 blood alcohol content to 0.05 as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“I think it’s an important thing to do. What we’ve been doing is not working and we have tens of thousands of Americans dying because of drunk driving,” said Faison, R-Cosby.
The NTSB this week recommended that states lower the threshold for a presumption of drunken driving from 0.08 to 0.05, the standard already in place for more than 100 other countries around the world. No state currently has a 0.05 general standard.
Faison said Tennessee was among the last states to lower its DUI standard from 0.10 to 0.08 and being the first to drop the standard to 0.05 would position Tennessee as leader in combating drunken driving instead of a follower.
While there has been “an awful lot of emphasis lately on guns with high-capacity magazines” in crime, Faison said drunken driving causes far more violent death and thus deserves far more attention “if we’re going to champion life.”
The legislator, who serves as vice chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said his personal interest in the subjects dates to the death of his sister, Becky, in an accident caused by a drunken driver a week after her 16th birthday, when he was 14.
“He (the drunken driver) basically got off with probation,” said Faison, who said he would otherwise like to see DUI laws strengthened to include seizure of a first offender’s vehicle. Current law provides for seizure of a vehicle only after multiple convictions.
“If the punishment doesn’t outweigh the pleasure of the crime, people are going to keep on doing it,” he said.
The Legislature earlier this year voted to require for the first time that first DUI convicts be required to obtain an ignition interlock device, which requires the driver to take a breath alcohol test before his or her car will start.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Office website, fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired drivers declined by 31.8 percent in Tennessee from 2007 through 2011 — or from 377 to 257 in that period. The preliminary figure for 2012 is 246 fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
The office also says that Tennessee Highway Patrol arrests for DUI increased by 25.4 percent from 2007 through 2012.
Faison said he will either file a bill lowering the standard to 0.05 next year himself or sign on as a co-sponsor to a more senior member willing to push the measure.
Faison, who is in his second term as a representative, said he that “with the way things work” a veteran lawmaker likely would have a better chance of success with passage of a potentially controversial measure.

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