It feels as though the legal blood alcohol limit (BAC) has been .08 forever, but most people don’t realize that it was only established in all states back in 2004. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was instrumental in helping states pass these BAC per se laws (laws in which having a certain alcohol level was illegal per se, rather than relying on proof of actual impairment), and although Delaware was the last state to pass a per se law, Michigan kept their options open by including a 10-year BAC sunset clause.
Michigan is the only state that has a BAC sunset clause, and the clause states that, if it expires before there is legislative action, the BAC will change from .08 to .10. The clause doesn’t come up often, and it’s only in the news right now because it was extended back in 2013 for a new expiry date of October 1st, 2018.
Now that the deadline is looming, Michigan lawmakers have proposed two new bills, House Bill 4547 and House Bill 4548, that would keep Michigan roads safer by eliminating the BAC sunset clause altogether and making the .08 BAC the permanent legal blood alcohol limit.
The thing to keep in mind is that these are just bills: they’re not passed yet, and they have to make their way through the House and the Senate before they are sent to the Governor for signature. There’s no guarantee that will happen.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while Michigan is debating returning to a .10 BAC, other states are dropping their BAC even lower. Utah just passed a law requiring the BAC in the state to be dropped to .05. If Michigan wants to go one step further, they could join in with Utah and other states who are considering following the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) recommendation that all states drop their BAC to .05.
Let’s hope the Michigan bills pass and the BAC sunset clause will be eliminated. After all, it would be hard to justify raising your state legal blood alcohol limit to .10 when it’s clear that some states think .08 is too high.