DWI/DUI Arrests of Drivers with Low BACs

Drunken drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes have an average BAC of .19 percent, more than twice the current legal limit. 1 A large number of these drivers are repeat offenders, many of whom are alcoholic. Such hard core repeat offenders need treatment for their alcoholism, argues the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Dr. Jeffrey Runge. 2 As one traffic judge observes, we can’t simply jail the problem away. It’s much wiser to get to the heart of the problem.

Anyone breaking the law by driving with a BAC of .08 or higher should be ticketed and fined. However, as the founder and first president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says, “if we really want to save lives, let’s go after the most dangerous drivers on the road.” 3 To be efficient we need to put our emphasis on apprehending and stopping the repeat, high BAC offenders who are at the highest risk of causing injuries or deaths.

Reports of drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) over and over again fill the news. One drunk driver was recently arrested for the 34th time. Our limited resources should focus on hunting down and treating habitual offenders. If treatment fails, they must be kept off the roads and highways.

However, as reported in The Washington Times, some police departments and officers seem to see things differently and are arresting drivers with a BAC just a fraction of the legal limit:

One Florida man recently ended up in jail for driving with a BAC of .02 percent -- the equivalent of about one drink. The grandson of a former Supreme Court justice, who had a little wine with dinner, was arrested in Washington with a BAC of .03 percent. And just a few months ago, a Florida man who admitted he drank a few beers hours before spent a night in jail though his BAC was a flat .00 percent. These are more than just isolated incidents. They are harbingers of a growing trend. 4

Observer John Doyle says “our collective failure to adequately deal with alcohol abusers who drive drunk should not be used as an excuse to punish moderate consumption of adult beverages.” 5


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) web site (nhtsa.dot.gov);
  2. Lundegaard, Karen. DWI court treatment programs in U.S. show signs of helping drunk drivers to sober up. Wall street Journal, April 7, 2004, pp. B1-B2;
  3. Fumento, Michael. Catch drunks, don’t harass drivers. consumeralert.org and fumento.com;
  4. Doyle, John. Drunken driving checkpoints. Washington Times, p. A17, May 32, 2005;
  5. Doyle, John. Drunken driving checkpoints. Washington Times, p. A17, May 32, 2005.

Filed Under: Drinking and Driving