Bill on Tap to Dry up ALL Drinking and Driving

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 4:10pm.

A Taunton state representative wants to make Massachusetts the first state to declare driving under the influence of alcohol - even one green beer - flat out illegal.

Rep. James Fagan’s legislation would slash the current .08 blood-alcohol limit recognized nationwide as the standard for being legally drunk to .02. Federal government research indicates a 160- to 240-pound man would register .02 sipping one glass of wine over the course of an hour.

“I think my friends in the Legislature are going to say, ‘Fagan, have you lost your mind?’ ” the Democrat and criminal defense attorney said yesterday. “You can drink all you want, but you can’t drive. Plain and simple.”

Other countries have set a .02 blood-alcohol limit for driving, including Sweden, Poland, Russia and Norway.

Though his cocktail of choice is a chocolate frappe with a strawberry ice cream chaser, Fagan, 60, who said he has represented “thousands” of accused drunken drivers at trial, is no teetotaller.

He simply believes that allowing people to imbibe and drive up to a point encourages “legalized alcohol gambling” by those raising a bottle to their lips and guessing when enough is enough - if at all.

By eliminating shades of drunkenness, Fagan suggests the responsible social drinker would be protected from arrest if caught with boozy breath because another driver hit them or they were stopped for a broken headlight.

“There’s absolutely no denying the amount of personal tragedy and social harm that results from people who drive impaired,” Fagan said, “but should we publicly Taser them? Cauterize their tonsils so they can’t drink? We’re running out of punitive measures.”

Ron Bersani, 61, of Marshfield, whose 13-year-old granddaughter Melanie Powell’s death by a drunken driver in 2003 inspired Melanie’s Law, is one of the state’s best-known proponents of cracking down on lushes at the wheel. But even he thinks lowering the blood-alcohol limit to .02 is “foolish.”

“You couldn’t even go to a wedding and have a toast,” he said.

Revelers at yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston were also finding Fagan’s bill hard to swallow.

“If this becomes law, then they’d better improve public transportation,” said Mike Hickey of Southie.

Margo Downey of Brighton said the proposal, to be heard tomorrow at the State House, borders on zero tolerance.

“This is just a huge sledgehammer to everyone,” Downey said. “If the buses or trains ran all night then it might be acceptable, but at the moment this is just unfair.”

Fagan realizes his bill isn’t a fool-proof deterrent any more than any punitive law.

“Society in general needs to recognize that no amount of laws will ultimately do away with everyone who intends to abuse the situation,” Fagan said. “But right now, we’re all in jeopardy. It’s just a matter of accident, fate or the whim of a police officer on any given night.”

 

By Laurel J. Sweet and Mike Underwood - March 17, 2008 - posted at http://bostonherald.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 4:10pm.