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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

Legislator aims to build his case for DUI change


FREMONT - In his campaign to toughen Ohio's drunken-driving law, state Rep. Rex Damschroder has faced a constant complaint over the past four years.

Lowering the blood-alcohol content level for drunk drivers from .10 to .08 will penalize “social drinkers,” damaging business at restaurants and bars, critics have told the Fremont Republican.

So on Monday night at Terra State Community College, Mr. Damschroder will experiment to see if that is true - and he'll use human subjects.

Mr. Damschroder will gather 12 people, who then will down mixed drinks in hope of answering the question: “Would social drinkers be affected by a .08 blood-alcohol content level?”

The state Highway Patrol will monitor the event, which Mr. Damschroder described as a “cocktail party setting where all participants will consume equal amounts of alcohol” in excess of what state legislators defined as “social drinking.”

Mr. Damschroder said he reached a definition of “social drinking” by surveying House of Representatives members. He said he will release the results Monday.

Lt. Brenda Collins, commander of the Fremont post of the state Highway Patrol, said participants will each have three mixed drinks. The highway patrol will administer breathalyzer tests on the 12 men and women, who will be of varying weight and age.

“None of them can have a past drug history or alcohol history, as far as getting DUIs,” said Mr. Damschroder, who said Terra State Community College is recruiting the 12 people.

Mr. Damschroder said the event, to be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Terra State, will not be open to the public. He said he plans later this month to re-introduce his bill to lower the blood-alcohol content standard to .08.

Participants will be required to sign a waiver freeing the state from any liability from the event, and all will have “monitors” in charge of driving them home.

“With three drinks in their system, nobody should need a designated driver, but it's for safety and so there is no question about liability,” Mr. Damschroder said.

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