Tennessee works - slowly - to stamp out drunk driving

Tennessee lawmakers may be preparing to lower the legal standards for drunk driving in an effort to improve traffic safety. Legislators recently said they will soon introduce legislation to require drivers who have taken prescription medications to have no alcohol at all in their bloodstreams. Within a few years, they said, the state may lower the legal limit blood alcohol level for all drivers to 0.05 from the current 0.08.

The lower legal limit was recommended recently by the National Transportation Safety Board in an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents on the nation's roadways. However, neither traffic safety advocates nor legislators have rushed to lower the legal limit right away.

One reason for their hesitancy, lawmakers say, is that the governor just recently signed a law requiring first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their cars, at their own expense. These devices force the driver to take a breath test to determine blood alcohol content before the car can be started. The law also sets up a fund to help pay for the devices for those who can't afford them. Lawmakers fear that were the 0.05 limit to go into effect right away, there wouldn't be enough money in the fund to pay for the increased number of convicted people who would need the devices.

There are many people and organizations working to make Tennessee roads safe from drunk driving. Some of their efforts may take a long time to get results, and some of them may never work out. And a person who is determined to drive while drunk may find a way to do so, no matter what the law says.

Meanwhile, Tennessee drivers who are doing everything by the book can still be hit by a drunk driver. They can be left with huge medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. When an injured person's damages are caused by another driver's negligence, the injured may be compensated through a personal injury lawsuit. Driving while drunk, or otherwise violating traffic safety laws is solid evidence that a driver acted negligently.

Source: KNOX News, "Lawmakers to target drinking drivers who have pills in their system," Tom Humphrey, June 5, 2013

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