(Seattle, WA) -- An addiction specialist at the University of Washington School of Medicine says traffic fatalities will drop if the state makes the move to a lower DUI-threshold. The state legislature is considering a bill that would drop Washington's legal limit from .08 to .05.

Dr. Richard Ries is the head of the addictions division at UW Medicine's Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. If the lower threshold is adopted, Ries expects says he expects traffic fatalities in Washington to drop by about 20%. He says there was a similar decrease in Utah after that state lowered its blood alcohol content limit for drivers to .05 in 2018.

“In Washington state, we had about 750 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the last two or three years,” said Ries. “So, that would potentially be 150 less deaths (over that timeframe).”

Dr. Ries says a change in behavior among those who use alcohol might also take place. He says he hopes a stricter DUI limit would force those who are drinking, to use designated drivers, public transit or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft

“At .08, most normal drinkers are buzzy. They can feel alcohol, and when you test them, their response times are a little slower,” said Ries. “When you test them on function, they're more likely to weave a little bit, even at the legal .08.”

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