Pennsylvania looks to lower drunken-driving limit, secure highway dollars

| 7/30/2003

With the threat of losing millions in federal transportation funds, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday to lower the state’s blood-alcohol concentration limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08.

SB8, sponsored by state Sen. Charles Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, now heads back to the House for final approval before going to the governor.

The bill requires repeat offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles for one year. The devices require drivers to perform breath tests before starting their vehicles, as well as periodically while they are driving, and trigger a shutdown of the engine if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is too high.

If signed into law, it would put the state in compliance with a national mandate by Congress to lower the legal limit to 0.08, Philadelphia’s KYW TV reported. Without the change, the state could lose millions in federal highway dollars by Oct. 1.

The House version of the bill – HB4 – would go a step further, setting up a tiered system of punishment that would impose harsher penalties, such as increased prison time and fines, for repeat offenders and drivers with excessively high blood-alcohol levels.