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Cape Gazette
Lewes, Delaware
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March 6, 1998     Cape Gazette
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March 6, 1998
 

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, March 6 - March 12, 1998 - 19 Federal move to 0.08 percent for DUI tied to state highway funding By Rosanne Pack On the eve of the final public hearing regarding a packet of drunk-driving laws proposed for Delaware, the U.S. Senate gave a two-to-one vote of approval to putting more national teeth into the bite against drunk driving. The Senate voted 62-32 in favor of setting 0.08 percent blood alco- hol level as the amount to deter- mine driving under the influence (DUI). At the state level, accep- tance of the stricter regulations would be tied to federal highway money; those who do not follow the federal standard would be pe- nalized, States that use a blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 to deter- mine DUI would lose 5 percent of their federal highway funding in 2002, and 10 percent after that.' Delaware has a 0.08 bill pend- ing, and the last of three public hearings for that bill and two other alcohol-related bills was March 5, in New Castle County. Sponsored by Rep. Terry Spence, R-Strat- ford, and Rep. William Oberle, Jr., R-Beecher's Lot, House Bill 421 would amend the state law which currently sets 0.10 as the threshold for DUI. Long active in drafting alcohol-related legisla- tion, Spence scheduled the hear- ings, starting with a Feb. 23 ses- sion in Georgetown. An expression of a general dis- satisfaction with the state's drunk driving laws has been a common theme at the two earlier hearings; however, the majority of those making comments are in favor of lowering the blood alcohol level to 0.08. There is some discomfort with the federal government wielding the highway fund stick over the heads of states, but most are in favor of making DUI laws more strict. In Georgetown, several attor- neys spoke against the reduction on the.grounds that it could crimi- nalize responsible social drinkers, and cause hardship on those who depend on use of their cars for get- ting to and from work. There were recommendations that the pro- posed imended law be further amended to contain a provision for a driving-to-work permit. Sen. George Bunting, D- Bethany Beach, said that he has no problem with lowering the DUI blood-alcohol level, but he thinks that the "First Offenders" program needs to be scheduled in a more realistic manner and a work permit provision should be built into the legislation. "I support 0.08. Whatever we can do to prevent drunk driving and save lives, we need to do," he said. "But, there hasto be a way to allow work permits, especially in someplace like Sussex County where mass transit is so limited. "If we make our laws stricter, we need to have an avenue for good people to take the first of- fenders course without undue hardship and for them to get to work." Agreeing with Bunting, Shirley Price, D-Millville, said the issue comes down to responsibility. "If people are impaired, they should not be driving," Price said. "I don't have a big problem with the blood-alcohol level being low- er for DUI, if it saves lives. People have to be accountable, and this could help people make decisions about drinking and driving." The Delaware bills are in the House Public Safety Committee; sponsors hope to move them to the floor shortly after the General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday, March 17. Speaker of the House Spence said th,'it he welcomes ad- ditional written comment on H.B. 421. Comments can be mailed to Spence at Legislative Hall, P.O. Box 1401, Dover, DE 19903. Burton Chsler, Plymouth i Dodge, Jeep, Eagle Delaware National Bank Gives You More! Whenit comes to getting real banking value throughout Sussex County, you really should be banking with us... Delaware National! You'll realize it the first time you come to any of our six convenient branches. In our people. And in our products. Which is why we'll give you a free gift certificate good locally in Sussex County just for opening a new checking account. 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