Will Oregon lower the legal limit for DUII to .05?

Written by Reynolds Defense Firm

On February 15, 2019

Will Oregon follow Utah again and lower the legal limit for DUII to .05 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)?


In 1983, Utah was the first state to lower the legal standard for DUII, from .10 to .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Oregon soon followed suit, led by the proposal of Oregon Senate President, Peter Courtney, then only a freshman representative.

Now, Oregon may follow Utah again, as the second state to reduce the DUI BAC limit to .05. Utah’s new regulation, the strictest in the nation, went into effect in December of 2018.

Before Utah passed their new law, Sen. Courtney introduced a draft of Senate Bill 7 to be considered during the Oregon legislative session that began on January 22, 2019. This bill suggests that a person commits the offense of DUI if that person has .05 or higher blood alcohol content.

What are the statistics?

Sen. Courtney’s office points out that that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been urging all 50 states lower their limits to .05 percent for the past five years. The NTSB reports that there was a 10.4% reduction in alcohol-related fatalities between 1982 and 2014, after the BAC limit was lowered from .10 to .08. They now estimate that lowering the limit to .05 would save 1,790 lives a year.

A summary of Senate Bill 7, released on November 27, 2018, highlights the following points:

  • Many countries have enacted a .05 BAC limit, including Australia, most of the EU, Hong Kong, Israel, and South Africa.
  • A 160-pound man would hit the limit with three drinks in one hour, and a 140-pound woman would after drinking three beers in an hour.
  • Drivers with a BAC of .05-.79 are 7 times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers with no alcohol in their system, according to NTSB.
  • Decreasing BAC limits does not reduce average alcohol consumption.

This summary is making the rounds to Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) staff. It’s important to note, too, that lowering Oregon’s BAC level has been a goal of ODOT for years. The state’s Transportation Safety Action Plan reports that impaired driving was involved in 22 percent of all fatal and serious injury crashes in Oregon between 2009 and 2013. That equates to 625 fatalities and 1,087 serious injuries.

What are people saying?

In an interview, Sen. Courtney said, “It’s going to be a struggle. This is a Mount Everest move. It’s doable, but it isn’t going to be easy. I’m going to fight like hell to make it happen.” He said he expects major blowback from the restaurant and alcohol lobbyists. “That industry is going to fight this because that’s how they make a living.”

Jackson Shedelbower, a spokesperson for the American Beverage Institute, has a position on the bill. He says any new legislation should focus on the drivers who drink high volumes of alcohol or have had repeat DUIIs.

Shedelbower supports his position with statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They report that 70 percent of alcohol-impaired fatalities involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of .15 percent or higher.  “That’s three times a .05 percent BAC,” Shedelbower said. “We think this law criminalizes perfectly responsible behavior.”

We’re not sure how this will turn out and what that will mean moving forward, but this is a proposed new law that we’ll be watching closely.  If you’re facing a DUI or DUI related offense, please call Reynolds Defense Firm, at (503) 223-3422 for your free initial consultation. Our team specializes in Oregon DUI law, and we’re the kind of law firm that you can place your faith and trust into. You can also use the online form or choose to chat with our team live 24/7.

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