Vote on lower drunken driving limit unlikely in Delaware

| 9/24/2003

The Delaware Senate is unlikely to vote on a bill to lower the state’s drunken-driving threshold, despite returning to the state capital for a special session, the Delaware State News reported.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner had planned to call Senators back to the Capitol Sept. 24 to vote on two judicial nominees, The News Journal reported recently, which would also allow them to vote on lowering the blood alcohol limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent by Sept. 30.

If the state doesn’t lower the limit by the end of the month, it stands to lose $1.6 million in federal highway funds. The penalty increases in future years.

"If you look at the problems with DUIs, it's not the people with .08 or .10, it's the ones higher than that,” Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman G. Adams, D-Bridgeville, told The Associated Press last week. "To me, it's got to be .10 or up before you have a problem."

Adams told the news service he would likely restrict legislative action Sept. 24 to three judicial nominations that required the Senate’s attention.

Other legislators have said publicly in the past that they opposed the effort to lower the limit.

HB111 passed the House in April, but it has languished since then in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to lowering the basic limit, under the bill, if a driver were over 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit under the bill, that driver would not be eligible for the state’s First Offender Program.

A 2000 federal law requires each state’s legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by 2004 or lose 2 percent of its highway money. If the state doesn’t lower its limit to 0.08 by October, it stands to lose $1.6 million in federal highway funds, the Delaware State News reported recently. The penalty escalates in future years. States that adopt the new limit by 2007 can recover the withheld funds.