PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A bill to reduce Washington’s BAC limit for drivers is now in the fast lane after the state’s Senate and Law Justice Committee referred the legislation to the transportation committee Thursday.

If passed, Senate Bill 5002 would bring a whole new meaning to drinking responsibly in Washington – as it would lower the state’s legal limit for operating a motor vehicle from a BAC of .08 to .05.

The bill was introduced by John Lovick, 44th District Senator.

“My motivation for having introduced this legislation is the heartache and grief that I know accompany DUI-related traffic fatalities. Washingtonians should not have to live in danger in order to lead a happy and healthy life in our beautiful state,” he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving was one of many to testify in favor of the bill Monday.

“This just makes good sense, especially for Washington. Right now, Washington State is fifth in the nation for an increase in fatalities relative to drunk driving,” said Dennis Maughan, Pacific Northwest Regional Executive Director of MADD.

The bill states 2021 was the deadliest year for Washington’s roads since 2006, with 540 fatal crashes killing more than 600 people. Legislators say more than half of those were caused by impaired drivers. However, the bill, modeled after Utah’s law, is not without controversy.

“I think there’s a real danger you could have somebody that is not impaired actually be convicted,” said 4th District Senator Mike Padden.

“What my concern is here, even with a .08 standard is that a lot of cases are being dismissed and then refiled a year later because of problems with the tox lab being backlogged,” added 32nd District Senator Jesse Salomon.

Primary points argued on the floor Thursday were the steep decline from .08 to .05 and concern that the bill doesn’t factor in DUIs for non-alcoholic substances.

But legal experts say this if passed, SB 5002 will likely have an impact on residents and the legal system at large.

“What this means is, what used to be a close call, someone driving at .07 or just barely .08, a case the prosecution might not pursue, will now be pursued,” said attorney Mark Lindquist. “I think the legislature wanted to send a message: don’t drink at all when you’re on the road, it’s not safe. And by lowering the limit they are sending that message.”

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News that they support the passage of the bill and released a statement on the matter.

“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office supports the passage of Senate Bill 5002, which reduces the breath or blood alcohol concentration limit for operating a motor vehicle from 0.08 to 0.05. According to data from the WA Traffic Safety Commission, from 2017 through 2021 there were 163 fatalities related to motor vehicle crashes in Clark County. 41 of those fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Utah, the only state currently with this standard, lowered the blood alcohol concentration limit for operating a motor vehicle from .08 to .05 in 2019. In studies, Utah found that their fatal crash rate dropped by 19.89 percent. A survey conducted by the State of Utah found that 22.1% of drinkers indicated that they had, in fact, changed their behaviors once the law went into effect.

Any reduction in the number of impaired drivers on our roadways will make it more likely that everyone can safely get home to their friends, families, and loved ones.”