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DWI Arrests Could Increase

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The National Transportation Safety Board believes by lowering the legal blood alcohol limit to .05, the number of alcohol related deaths will go down. But a State’s Attorney in South Dakota believes by doing that, another number will go up.

The number of DWI arrests.

“The DWI problem we have not, just in this state but in this country, it's at an epidemic level, said Lincoln County State’s Attorney,Tom Wollman.

Wollman agrees with the recommendation that the legal BAC level should be lowered from .08 to .05. It's a suggestion by the National Transportation Safety Board that he says is the right decision to save lives.

“It strikes a lot of people, it strikes a lot of people in our communities here in South Dakota and I think it's time we get serious about it," said Wollman.

In 2011 alone, 32 people died from alcohol impaired accidents in South Dakota and over 5,200 DUI arrests were made. While Wollman believes lowering the legal BAC level could help to prevent those deaths, he says it would also mean more business for the State's Attorneys dealing with DWI cases.

“If the levels went lower, we would certainly see an increase in the number of DWI arrests," said Wollman.

That's because Wollman says even at a .05 level, an individual starts to show signs of impairment,
making them even more dangerous than those at higher levels. Wollman says this is because they don't feel as intoxicated, and are more willing to take the risk and get behind the wheel.

“People would need to come to the realization that it is almost a 0 tolerance level where you can have 2-3 beers, depending on your weight and factors like that, over that period of time and if you've had that you simply can’t drive," said Wollman.

Wollman says even if the recommendation were to become a law, it would take some time for it to go into effect.

Nationwide, the last time the Federal Government recommended a lower blood alcohol limit it took 21 years for all 50 states to adopt it and South Dakota was the last in 2002.

The state gave in because the Federal Government threatened to withhold millions of dollars in highway funding.

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