BOSTON (CBS) – This weekend kicks off a busy stretch of partying for many people that will peak on New Year’s Eve, otherwise known as amateur night.

And unfortunately, we all know what that means – a greater than usual chance of encountering drunk drivers on our roads. According to state officials, we lose around 150 people every year in Massachusetts to crashes involving impaired drivers.

In Utah, a state with far fewer DUI-related fatalities than us, they take impaired driving much more seriously. Next week, a new first-in-the-nation law will go into effect there that will lower the maximum legal blood-alcohol level from .08, the same maximum we have, to .05.

“We really don’t want people making the call for themselves. We don’t want them saying, ‘Well, I’ve had some to drink and I know I’m a little bit impaired but I don’t know if I’m too impaired to drive or not.’ Reality is if you’ve been drinking, you are impaired at least a little bit and you shouldn’t be driving,” said Utah state Rep. Norm Thurston.

According to national highway safety officials, a blood-alcohol content of just .02 can impair your ability to drive. At .05, your coordination is reduced and most people start to have problems steering properly.

So if it would save lives here, why shouldn’t Massachusetts follow suit?

No reason, but we likely won’t because we often lag behind others when it comes to drunk driving laws, thanks to an active defense-lawyer lobby and broad public apathy.

Think about that when you see somebody weaving all over the road over the next few days.

Talk back to me via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge and have a happy – and safe – new year.

Comments (2)
  1. Theodore Oule says:

    It is quickly coming time to require those convicted of drunken driving to be required to have breath-activated interlocks installed on their vehicles that will prevent the car from starting if their alcohol levels exceed 80% of the state’s standard.

    Having the state pay for the installation of these devices, then so be it. The cost to the state will be far less than the cost of 150 human lives and a sensible, productive use of state resources.

    The devices should be designed to record the date and time of each instance where the breath interlock device shows that the ignition remains locked.

    For those who complain that the locking of the ignition would make it difficult use the vehicle in emergencies, design it so that a 911 operator can release the lock, the argument being that if an emergency is such that life or limb is at risk, a 911 call is appropriate.

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