State lawmakers propose lowering blood-alcohol limit for drivers to .05

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State lawmakers are considering two new bills with bipartisan support that could dramatically impact how drinking and driving is enforced in Washington.

Senate Bill 5002, sponsored by state Sen. John Lovick, would lower the current blood alcohol limit for drivers from 0.08 to 0.05.

Utah is currently the only state with a lower blood alcohol content standard of 0.05.

“It is very clear to me that drunk driving is impacting the safety of our communities, and it is time that we do something,” said Lovick during a public hearing on Monday. “Drunk driving is a choice. Drunk driving collisions are avoidable.”

Proponents of the bill, including representatives from the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, cited an increase in deadly crashes across the state.

More than half of fatal crashes in the state from 2017 to 2021 involved “driver impairment by drugs and/or alcohol,” according to the WTSC.

But there is also serious opposition to the proposal, including from the Washington Hospitality Association and Washington Wine Institute.

Both groups said the current alcohol limit is safe and backed by science and have argued that the lower limit would harm businesses.

“There’s no discernable way to recognize signs of intoxication at 0.05,” said Julia Gordon with the Washington Hospitality Association. “The 40% reduction in the threshold will put thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of employees at new risk when there are no tools available to assist them.”

The other bill being considered, Senate Bill 5032, would impact those with several previous DUI offenses.

Right now, someone can be convicted of a felony for driving while impaired if they’ve been convicted of three or more DUIs over ten years.

The proposed law, which is sponsored by state Sen. Mike Padden, would expand that lookback period to 15 years and also create a sentencing alternative for a felony DUI conviction.