California, USA: Big Alcohol Lobbies against Road Safety
The California House of Representatives is considering a bill to reduce the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for impaired driving from .08 to .05. Assembly Bill 1713, or Liam’s Law, was introduced by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke in order to improve road safety legislation in the state of California. However, the Big Alcohol front group American Beverage Institute (ABI) is actively lobbying against lowering the BAC level.
Misrepresenting evidence, undermining live-saving legislation
In an opinion piece in the Orange County Register, ABI Communications Director ShedelBower wrote recently:
Lowering the legal limit does nothing to address the group of high-BAC and repeat drunk drivers who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.”
The ABI is engaged in campaigns against better road safety measures across the United States and they write on their website:
ABI strongly opposes lowering the blood-alcohol arrest level. The move is an attack on the restaurant and hospitality industries and converts their responsible customers into criminals.
A driver with a 0.05 BAC may technically be somewhat impaired, but impairment is relative.”
The ABI is the lobby front group for Big Alcohol. It represents restaurant chains as well as hundreds of individual restaurants and on-premise retailers in the United States.
In addition, the ABI membership consists of some of the biggest alcohol producers: Samuel Adams, Heineken USA, Bacardi U.S.A.and the Patron Spirits Company, according to information obtained by The Huffington Post in 2013. The ABI does not usually discuss its corporate sponsors.
It’s clear where the interests of the ABI are placed: with private profit, not with public health and safety.
In its latest Global Alcohol Status Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) writes that alcohol impairs drivers’ sensory, motor and intellectual capabilities, particularly when BAC reach the 0.05% limit. The WHO Global Alcohol Strategy, adopted by all WHO member states in 2010, cites strong evidence in support of a low BAC limit (between 0.02% and 0.05%), and the majority of countries (70%) with an established BAC limit set BAC limits at or below 0.05%.
Evidence from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in the United States shows that drivers with BACs of .05 – .08 are seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers without alcohol in their system.
A 2014 comprehensive review of the scientific studies on BAC limits showed that research indicates that virtually all drivers are impaired regarding at least some driving performance measures at a 0.05 BAC.
The relative risk of being killed in a single-vehicle crash with BACs of 0.05–0.079 is 7–21 times higher than for drivers at 0.00 BAC. Lowering the BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.05 has been a proven effective countermeasure in numerous countries around the world.”
The US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) says that approximately 1,500 lives could be saved each year if the BAC was lowered to 0.05 nationwide. Other federal states are showing the way: On January 1, 2019 Utah became the first state to lower the BAC to 0.05 and similar efforts are made in New York and Oregon.
That is what Assembly Bill 1713, or Liam’s Law, is intended to achieve in California, too – lower the risk for road users of being harmed by alcohol impaired drivers; serve as a general deterrent for high BAC drivers as well as low BAC drivers.
On September 3, 2016 15-month old Liam and his 15-year old aunt were struck by an alcohol impaired driver. The driver fled the scene. Liam’s aunt suffered non-life-threatening injuries which she later recovered from but Liam passed away due to traumatic brain injuries. Liam’s parents have been campaigning for improved road safety ever since.
Liam’s mother, Meshel Eder responds to the ABI lobbying, in the Daily Breeze:
… the ABI [is] relying on fear mongering tactics and myths to confuse the public and, just as importantly, the California legislators who will be considering bill AB 1713.
Liam’s Law is backed by the facts, research and common sense. Similarly to Utah, Californians can stand up to special interest groups like the ABI and make our state a safer place for all residents.”