Drink Driving in Hawaii

Bill May Make Hawaii Lowest Limit Drunk Driving State

Several bills working their way through the state legislature may be of interest to visitors as well as to residents. These are looking to set a lower threshold at which visitors and residents will be deemed to be drunk driving. The current level is .08%, and the proposed level is .05%. The bills are SB 365, SB 160, and HB 1469 (see below). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 91 people were killed on Hawaii roads during the first 9 months of 2022, which was up 42% compared with the prior year.

If passed, Hawaii will share being the lowest limit drunk driving state with Utah. That is currently the only state in the country with such a low threshold. At the same time, however, .05 is already the legal standard in many places worldwide. Japan has .03%, and China has .02%. In fact, more than 90 countries have legal limits of .05% or less.

While proponents say that the change will save lives in Hawaii, nay-sayers in the legislature, like Donna Mercado Kim, say that it disproportionately impacts those who weigh less than those who weigh more. Others are concerned that the offense penalties will be too severe for those offenders between the new 05% and the current .08% limit and have suggested the possibility of some alternative. Perhaps that could include lower penalties for lower alcohol levels.

SB 160 has already been passed by the Senate, with a vote of 21 to 1, and it is moving on to the House.

Cost of a DUI in Hawaii.

The average penalty/fine for a driving while drinking conviction in Hawaii is $4,158, which aligns with the national average. The fine is up to $1,000. Other potential consequences include jail, loss of driving privileges, car insurance rate hikes, towing, attorney, and bail fees.

Hawaii visitors must also comply.

For visitors with driver’s licenses from other states, a Hawaii infraction is reportable to your own state and could result in a driver’s license suspension or worse at home. Visitors must be aware if this law goes into effect, as they are also bound by it. That is deemed to be a result of implied consent, which also requires testing to confirm a suspicion of drunk driving. Failing to do so is even more severe.

The Hawaii Alcohol Policy Alliance says, “Arrive Alive With .05.

They said that the .05% limit is “A proven strategy to Reduce Alcohol Impaired Car Crashes, Injuries, and Death. A 2022 study on Utah’s .05 BAC law on the impact on impaired driving found the following: 19.8% drop in fatal car crashes in the 21-month period following the passage of Utah’s law that lowered the BAC limit to .05.”

They indicated that in Utah, some 22% of drivers indicated they had hanged their behavior related to drinking, especially ensuring transportation when drinking when not at home.

The alliance said Each person killed in a preventable alcohol-related crash on Hawaii roads forever changes the lives of families and
communities. “The data are clear, the lifesaving benefits are certain, the support is documented and the justification
for action is compelling.”

NTSB, Police, Hawaii DOT and prosecutors support the change.

Among those opposing the measure is the Hawaii Office of the Public Defender and most of the Hawaii alcohol industry (not including Anheuser-Busch). Some of those say that it is simply too restrictive and would penalize normal responsible drinking and driving.

The Kauai Beer Company stated, “Research seems to indicate that a majority of drunk-driving related fatalities involve at least one driver with blood alcohol content of 0.15% or higher. Lowering the limit from 0.08% to 0.05% would not fix this problem.” That, however, conflicts with the findings in Utah, where a 20% drop in related fatalities occurred.

Utah is the only state to have a BAC limit of 0.05%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed the findings related to a drop in fatalities concurrent with the change in the law. The Utah law went into effect in 2017. The reduction in traffic fatalities came despite an increase in driving.  The Utah data indicates that arrests due to drunk driving didn’t increase significantly.

What’s your take on the proposed change from .08% alcohol to .05%?


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7 thoughts on “Bill May Make Hawaii Lowest Limit Drunk Driving State”

  1. The article insinuates that the 91 killed on Hawaii roads under the year to date number are all alcohol related, though that is in no way clear.

    The article also references Utah’s improvement, however does Utah also have arbitrarily unannounced checkpoints like Hawaii??

    As someone else remarked, a .05 rate ensnares responsible drinkers. No longer will we be able to have a glass of wine or two at dinner. And with the relative lack of transportation infrastructure on Maui and high ride share rates forcing people to drive, it’s no wonder the alcohol industry is resisting. So should the restaurant industry as it will invariably drive down high margin alcohol sales, while also reducing the bill, reducing tips to bartenders, wait staff, et

  2. This is ridiculous. First of all most are repeat offenders that may or may not have a license!

    We need to blame the lawyers and Judges for these people being out after many offenses of DUI.

    Only good people will be hurt by this law!! Have 1 regular beer or a small glass of wine and your illegal for an hour or two.

    1. You can still have a glass of wine with your meal and as long as Maui keeps up with ridiculous dancing restrictions, I am all for limiting alcohol, especially for drivers! It’s a fact that most accidents are caused by drunk drivers …not only in Hawaii. Read up!

  3. Awesome! I wish California would do the same.
    When BOH posts a story about a nutcase on a plane, multiple commenters suggest massive fines and permanent flight bans. Over 10,000 people are killed and 290,000 are injured per year in US drunk driving accidents. When was the last time a crazy nut on a plane killed one person?
    Maybe the limit should be zero%. Why do people feel they have a right to drink and drive?

  4. It’s scary to think, but out of those 91 drivers killed in 2022, how many were locals, and how many were visitors? I sincerely hope this isn’t one more problem thought to be brought on by tourists. From what I’ve seen, people staying in Waikiki, for instance, are mainly walking from bar to bar. Even if they wanted to drive a car, there’s no place to park. My only experience is on Oahu. I don’t know the other islands. I don’t know how many are privately owned bars, where a person would have to drive to them. I guess legislators will do what they think is right. But I think it’s going to affect local people rather than tourists.

  5. “Drunk” driving of this nature is a cash grab. Low-hanging fruit besides, presents the appearance of actually doing something community-positive. Monsanto when I lived out there had free run to so as they pleased. How harmful is that compared to .05? Common thread: money. (Lastly, and I would *not* advocate for this, but, take all of the drivers who burned before they got in and get them off of the road, pit these heavy fines etc on them. Would there be anyone left?)

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