Following a recent article on Oklahoma’s poor drunk driving statistics, a state lawmaker said a new law increasing access to more potent beer was ill-advised.
A Sept. 14 story on Oklahoma Watch, an online investigative news site, reported that between 1994 and 2012, alcohol-related traffic deaths in Oklahoma increased by approximately 10 percent despite a nearly 20 percent decrease in those deaths across the nation.
Rep. Mike Ritze, a physician with a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science Administration and member of the House Public Safety Committee, believes those numbers will increase significantly once a new law that makes hard beer available to Oklahomans takes effect on Nov. 1. He said hard beer will allow people to become intoxicated more quickly. Currently in the state, beers of 4.0 percent alcohol by volume and above are legal for sale in liquor stores. Those beers are only allowed to be sold at room temperature.
House Bill 1341, which was signed into law by the governor in April, will allow licensed brewers in Oklahoma to serve free samples of hard beer (potentially greater than 6 percent alcohol content) they have produced to visitors 21 years of age or older. While the law limits samples to no more than 12 fluid ounces per day, Ritze said that is enough to intoxicate a driver depending on numerous variables.
“Alcohol affects everyone in a different way, depending on their age, weight, sensitivity to alcohol and whether they have eaten recently,” said Ritze, an instructor for both CLEET and the Sheriff’s Association. “Even 12 ounces of hard beer alcohol has the potential to impair a driver to the point that they are a danger to others. It doesn’t take much sense to figure out that increasing access to alcohol will result in more alcohol-related deaths.”
DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, is a charge filed against a motorist who registers a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08 or higher. All 50 states consider .08 and above to be DUI. A person can be charged for Driving While Impaired if test results show a BAC of .05 to .07.