Michigan diners and bar-goers will now have to monitor their drinking habits more carefully with the passage of a federal mandate that will punish those driving with a lowered blood alcohol content.
Prior to the new law, driving with a .08 BAC did not necessarily constitute drunk driving. Now a motorist with a .08 BAC will receive the same punishment as a driver with .1 BAC content.
Sgt. Matt Bolger, governmental liaison for the Michigan State Police, clarified the changes in the law.
“A blood-alcohol content of .08 has always been illegal. However, the previous law used to make .08 presumptive that a motorist with a .08 BAC could have previously made a case that they were not, in fact, legally intoxicated,” Bolger said.
The punishments for a drunk -driving conviction include up to $1,500 in fines, 360 hours of community service and a maximum of 93 days in jail.
Anne Readett, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning spokeswoman, said she feels optimistic about the new law.
“I don’t think we’ll see a big change in arrests but we can expect that more people will be more careful now that the standards have changed,” Readett said.
With the new regulations, the drinking habits that previously fell under the legal level could now raise someone’s BAC above .08. Acceptable social drinking, loosely defined as less than four drinks in the course of an evening according to the University’s website, could now land a diner or bar patron that gets behind the wheel under arrest.
The National Restaurant Association claims that two drinks in a two-hour period could leave a 160 lb. person with a BAC above .08, according to its website.
Bolger said he believes that several items contribute to a motorist’s BAC.
“I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for BAC. It’s controlled by many factors – gender, body weight, if and what the person has eaten that day,” Bolger said.
“It also depends what you mean by ‘drinks.’ Someone who’s had say, a Long Island Iced Tea, is more likely to have a higher BAC than someone who’s had a lighter drink like a Coke and Rum,” Bolger added.
Engineering senior Rob Rucky said the new law will not change his habits.
“It’s a little threshold between .08 and .1. I don’t keep exact track of myself when I go out,” Rucky said.
Local restaurants said they were unfazed by the new law change. Good Time Charley’s Manager Tony Lavigne said he did not expect major changes.
“We gauge serving alcohol on a person-to-person basis, not by the exact letter of the law. We don’t really have a problem with people drinking and driving,” Levigne said.
Rene Gress, the co-owner of the Arbor Brewing Company, said she felt similarly unaffected by the new law.
“I think people monitor their drinking by feel. I don’t think the law will have a significant affect on what they do. We’re not expecting any change in business,” Gress said.