Any law or regulation aimed at human activity must have an element of reasonableness. It must recognize that there are always competing motivations that dictate human behavior.
Most people drive to reach a destination. The purpose of that destination may be work, family responsibilities, maintenance tasks, socializing, or recreation.
In our society (as in most societies), the vast majority of the adult population consumes beverages containing alcohol. If this is at the destination end of their trip, they will inevitably be returning with some amount of alcohol in their systems. In modest amounts, this rarely causes a problem or safety risk to others. Most people recognize this and act accordingly, in a responsible manner.
A zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving will not work. Moreover, it will expose motorists to a rash of officially sanctioned abuses that will exceed any of those we currently endure.
That brings us back full circle to the establishment of a reasonable standard that can be recognized, understood, and complied with by reasonable people. The standard that meets that criteria is one based on discernable impairment.
Discernable impairment need not be BAC dependent. Different people experience different levels of impairment at the same BAC levels.
If a person's driving indicates impairment (e.g., erratic maneuvers of speeds, or running into fixed objects) and they have alcohol in their systems, they should be a candidate for a DUI citation.
If a single standard BAC is to be established as the automatic threshold for a DUI citation, it should be high enough to reflect discernable impairment among the general population.
An appropriate and enforceable BAC of .12% would represent a reasonable standard.
Please note that we are not saying a .12% BAC is necessary for a DUI conviction. Rather, that for an automatic DUI conviction that does not involve or require discernable impairment the BAC must be at least .12%.
Given that the average DUI arrest involves a BAC of .15% to .17% (regardless of the legal BAC), a .12% BAC remains well below the typical level for DUI arrests. It is also a level of intoxication that most persons will recognize as representing a degree of impairment.
Penalties and punishment for DUI convictions should reflect the degree of intoxication and the severity of the circumstance. A person charged with having a .25% BAC should be assessed a greater penalty than someone charged with a .12% BAC.
Furthermore, if an intoxicated driver causes property damage or personal injury, the penalties should reflect those losses and be paid to the victims, not the state.
By targeting higher BAC operators and repeat offenders, the state can focus its enforcement and treatment efforts on truly dangerous drivers, the small percentage of true drunk drivers that menace our streets, roads, and highways.