In the United States, the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) driving limit is 0.08%, however, our neighbors to the north have stricter rules on drinking and driving with penalties starting for BAC levels as low as 0.05% in most provinces. As we mentioned a few months ago, Canadian border patrol agents even have the authority to deny any person with a DWI conviction from obtaining entry to Canada (although there is legislation planned to ease up these laws). In this post let’s explore Canada’s 0.05% BAC limit and thoughts of whether the U.S. will ever go down the same path.
Canada’s Stringent Drunk Driving Laws
Earlier this year, Alberta adopted new 0.05% drunk driving legislation following British Columbia which currently imposes a three-day suspension and vehicle seizures for drunk drivers who have a BAC level of 0.05% – 0.08% – coined the “warn range”. While this range of BAC is still considered legal under B.C. Criminal Code, it can result in first-time offenders having to pay a fine of $200, a license reinstatement fee of $250, an immediate license suspension of three days, and possible fees for storage and towing if the vehicle is seized. Getting caught in this “warn range” the second or third time in a five-year period can lead to even lengthier suspensions, heftier penalties, and a longer vehicle seizure.
Alberta imposed a similar three-day suspension, fines, and seizure of vehicle of first-time offenders with 0.05% to 0.08% BAC levels, while second-time offenders could face a loss of their driver’s license, seizure of their vehicle for 15 days and fines. According to this online blood alcohol calculator, it only takes two 5-ounce glasses of wine, consumed 1 hour apart for a 125-pound woman to register a BAC level of 0.073%.
History of the BAC Level Driving Limit in the U.S.
DUI history shows that the goal of drunk driving laws were simply to prevent people from driving while impaired. The first BAC driving limit was set at 0.13% when authorities acquired crude devices that measured alcohol content in breath samples. This was based on a 1938 study that showed drivers with 0.15% BAC level or higher were presumed Under the Influence, and it became the legal driving limit for 22 years.
Powerful Political Pressure
Most people are familiar with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a well-organized anti-drinking and driving lobby group, who’s agenda is to impose more severe DWI laws with the stated goal being to “stop drunk driving”.
MADD was formed in 1980, and tougher DWI legislation started to appear soon after lowering the legal drunk driving BAC level to 0.10%. This new legislation caused DWI arrests and convictions to significantly increase.
The group continued to apply political pressure which led to the dropping of the legal driving limit to 0.08% in four states by 1990. Ten years later, all states adopted the 0.08% standard. Since then, MADD has been applying pressure to state legislatures to drop the legal driving limit to 0.05%.
What the Future Holds for the DWI Limit in Minnesota and the Rest of the U.S.
With pressures from MADD as well as pressures from other countries, we would not be surprised if one day, in the not so distant future, American states start putting in place even more stringent DWI laws with regard to the legal blood alcohol concentration.
For now, in Minnesota and the rest of America, if your BAC level registers 0.08 or higher you will be charged with DWI. If this happens, it’s imperative that you immediately contact an experienced DWI lawyer such as Minneapolis based Douglas T. Kans of Kans Law Firm, LLC.