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Ohio and most states now use a minimum

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published: November 21, 1997 12:00 AM

Ohio and most states now use a minimum of 0.10 percent to determine when a driver is legally drunk.

The change would mean the difference between five drinks and four drinks in one hour for a 170-pound man on an empty stomach. A 130-pound woman would reach 0.08 percent after three drinks in an hour, Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, said Thursday.

"This bill is not going to affect the social drinker," he said. "You have to do some serious drinking to reach the 0.10 limit."

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"We're all for it. MADD is all for it," said Linda Lauck of the Portage County Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "There are a lot of people hurt and killed under 0.01. There are a lot of inexperienced drinkers who get hurt under 0.01."

Lauck said she is waiting to see what the state office does. "I would encourage all our members to write letters to support this bill. Our mission is to prevent drunk driving and to support the victims and to prevent future victims. And maybe by lowering the limit to 0.08, we can save some lives."

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Damschroder, who has pitched the idea before, faces opposition from Senate President Richard Finan, R-Cincinnati, who considers the proposal too far-reaching.

A previous attempt to lower the legal limit to 0.08 failed in the legislature in 1993.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, is sponsoring a bill pending in Congress that would make all states set their drunken-driving thresholds at 0.08.

Fifteen states already use the 0.08 percent limit. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater has said that drunken driving deaths declined an average of 16 percent in the first five states to adopt the lower limit _ Utah, Oregon, Maine, California and Vermont.

Lt. John Born, a spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol, said last year the patrol arrested 24,684 motorists for driving under the influence. Of that total, 1,821 were tested with blood-alcohol levels between 0.05 and 0.09. The highest category, with 6,620 arrests last year, is between 0.10 and 0.14, Born said.

"The highway patrol is supporting the legislation for two reasons. Number one, the ultimate goal of the highway patrol is to reduce or prevent an accident which we know is likely to cause injury or death. It's a deterrent." Born noted the patrol issues some 500,000 warnings each year.

"We think the 0.08 limit will have a significant deterrent effect, based on the other 15 states that have it," he said. "And secondly, for those cases that are in the 0.08 to 0.10 range that sometimes are reduced to reckless operation, they now no longer become borderline. Ultimately it will help us get drunk drivers off the road."

The legal blood-alcohol limit for people under 21 years old is 0.02 percent. That would not be affected by the proposed legislation.

The Associated Press also contributed to this story.

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