State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) wants to be on the forefront of cracking down on drunk driving by lowering the amount of alcohol one can have in their body while behind the wheel.
On Thursday, he announced House Bills 4420-2, a package that would lower the drunk driving limit to .05 blood-alcohol content (BAC), increase penalties for drunk drivers and impose an ignition interlock for any drunk-driving related offender.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving supported his new legislation.
“Today, we are proud to stand with Michigan to support this proposal that research shows will save lives,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter Helen Marie was killed by a drunk and marijuana-impaired driver while rollerblading on a bike path.
“Research shows that critical driving skills are impaired at .05 BAC, significantly increasing the risk of a horrible, 100 percent preventable crash. We want to do anything we can to support states that are trying to stop these tragedies and keep drunk drivers off the road.”
The current allowed BAC in Michigan is .08
“We must address drunk driving, which is a completely avoidable epidemic,” Hammoud said. “As a former public health professional, I am motivated by facts and statistics, and as a legislator, I know our current policies in place to prevent drunk driving are not working, which is why we must do more. The loss of the Abbas family, a beautiful family of five, due to a drunk driver, has further motivated a community of advocates to step up and propose real solutions backed up by the scientific community. These critical proposals will do more to prevent drinking and driving, and ultimately save lives.”
In addition to Witty, Hammoud was joined by Nicholas J. Smith, National Safety Council interim president and CEO; Jennifer Homendy, National Transportation and Safety Board member; and Tara Gill, senior director of advocacy and state legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
If the law passes, Michigan will follow Utah in lowering the legal BAC to .05; the rest of the country still uses the .08 level.
In addition to Michigan, Oregon, New York and California also are considering lowering the limit this year.
Witty said her organization is not currently seeking to lower the national BAC level, despite its work to pass the .08 laws several years ago.
“MADD fought hard to pass a national .08 BAC law that has saved thousands of lives over the past 15 years,” Witty said. “We continue to stand behind that national standard. But for states that want an even stronger law — let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
According to Hammoud, the number of alcohol-related deaths has been on the rise in recent years.
In 2017 alone, drunk driving killed almost 11,000 people — a 9 percent increase since 2014, when the number of people killed by drunk driving had dropped below 10,000, officials said.
“In the 39 years since MADD’s founding, the number of drunk driving deaths have been reduced by half,” Witty said. “But the recent rise in lives lost, and the horrific drunk driving crashes that continue to dominate the news, are constant reminders that our work is just beginning. We know that strong laws, backed by consistent law enforcement will save lives. MADD will put every effort into supporting both of these until there are no more victims.”
Hammoud’s package was introduced following the death of the Abbas family, a family of five from Michigan killed earlier this year when a drunk driver collided head-on with their vehicle on 1-75 while traveling in Kentucky
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) also has drunk-driving related bills going through the U.S. House of Representatives in response to what happened to the Abbas family.