STAFF EDITORIAL: Lower alcohol limit for safety good idea; federal money needed

Wisconsin needs all the money it can get its hands on right now. Turning down the recommendation to lower the legal alcohol limit for driving is bad timing and a poor decision.

The federal government will take away 2 percent of highway and construction funding each year until 2008 if Wisconsin decides to keep its limit at 0.10 instead of lowering it to 0.08.

State legislators should recognize this as poor timing to put its foot down, especially on an issue as important to safety as this.

The point in lowering the limit is to keep people safe. The federal government is holding money hostage in order to get what it wants, but it is for our own good. In this particular case, the stick and carrot method is OK to use to get states to comply.

Physicians have said in one hour, a 137-pound female can have three drinks while a 170-pound male can have four drinks on an empty stomach and still be below 0.08.

The difference between the 0.10 and 0.08 levels of sobriety is not very big. Driving is impaired at both levels.

With the rough winters in Wisconsin, it should be evident that the state needs the money to repair the roads. Construction is mandatory and someone has to pay for it. If Wisconsin legislators opt not to comply, the state could miss out on $126.8 billion by the year 2008.

The legislators against the move are giving the state a bad reputation. They are saying they want to be able to have another drink before they get in the car and drive home impaired.

This threat to withhold funding is a good idea for a state that already has a problem with drunk driving.