Monday, October 6, 2003

Lower alcohol limit leads to 155 arrests in 2 months

The Associated Press

TOLEDO - The state's lowered drunken-driving threshold has led to 155 arrests in the first two months after the law took effect, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

To protect millions of dollars in federal highway funds, the Legislature voted to lower Ohio's legal blood-alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08, effective July 1.

The Blade reported Sunday that drivers with blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 and 0.09 accounted for nearly 8 percent of the patrol's drunken driving arrests in July and August.

The figures include only those drivers who agreed to breath tests. Another 485 drivers refused to take the test and were automatically referred for license suspension.

The figures also exclude arrests made by local police and sheriff's officials.

Patrol Sgt. Robin Schmutz said it's way too early to determine if the stricter blood-alcohol limit will lead to substantially more arrests, or if it might reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes.

Meanwhile, another new law takes effect on Jan. 1 that will require Ohio drivers convicted of drunken driving and given special driving privileges to use a yellow license plate with red numbers.

Doug Scoles, executive director of the Ohio chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the purpose is not to humiliate drivers.

"If I am driving down the road and I see a yellow license plate, I will watch that person a little bit closer. From a safety aspect, I think it is a good thing," he told the Blade.

However, Jerome Phillips, a Toledo lawyer who represents clients accused of drunken driving, says the plates will make it difficult for family members or others who must share the vehicle with the special plates.

"It is sort of like a neon sign that says, 'I have a prior record. Come look at me again.' " Phillips said.

Ohio has had the so-called "DUI plates" since 1967 but judges seldom ordered drivers to use them.

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Sunday's local news report