Hawai'i State News

Bill proposing to lower state’s blood alcohol content threshold clears House committee

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

A house bill proposing to lower the threshold of blood alcohol content from .08% to .05% cleared its first hurdle as it passed out of the House Transportation Committee this morning.

The decision comes after the committee received written and oral testimony in overwhelming support of HB1935 earlier this week.

This is the fourth legislative session in a row that bills have been introduced to change the state’s BAC law. Along with HB1935, three additional bills are being considered related to this measure: SB2384, SB2929 and SB3020.

“Despite the introduction of these bills, I continue to sense a lack of urgency among our lawmakers to pass this legislation and that is beyond troubling,” said Camlyn Pola, vice chair of the East Hawai‘i Drug-Free Coalition in written testimony to the committee. “It costs nothing to change this law. There is no budget implication whatsoever.

“However, the cost of not changing it is more lives lost. Even one alcohol-related traffic death is too many. While just one life saved makes it all worth it.”


Committee member Richard H.K. Onishi, who represents Hilo, told his fellow committee members this morning that after Tuesday’s testimony, he felt compelled to support a zero-tolerance threshold, or any measurable amount of alcohol in the system, adding he would be voting yes on the measure with reservations.

Rep. Luke Evslin of Kaua‘i said he hadn’t felt strongly about the bill going into Tuesday’s public hearing but after listening to the compelling testimony he supported the measure.

Rep. Micah P.K. Aiu was the lone dissenting vote of the committee. Like Evslin, Aiu said he didn’t have strong opinions on lowering blood alcohol content. But the loss people spoke of because of drunk driving moved him.

“I want us to take bold action,” Aiu said, adding he supports zero tolerance and doesn’t support anything less than that.


If the bill passes, Hawai‘i would be the second state to reduce BAC to .05 behind Utah, which passed it into law on Dec. 30, 2018.

Keoni Shizuma was the only person to submit written testimony that was neither for nor against lowering the blood alcohol content threshold.

“I did want to express that merely lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit in order to prevent accidents related to alcohol consumption does not seem like a well thought through solution,” Shizuma wrote.

Shizuma said he believed other efforts such as improved enforcement of a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration could result in greater benefit than lowering the limit down to 0.05.


“I am in full support of preventing drunk or intoxicated driving, and educational and other efforts to prevent intoxicated driving, but I do not expect that simply lowering the limit from 0.08 to 0.05 will bring about the improvements in safety that this bill is hoping to achieve,” Shizuma stated.

As a survivor of a drunk driving crash, Pola stated she deserves to be heard.

“We deserve to drive on roads made safer because our lawmakers lowered the BAC to 0.05%,” she said.

The measure passed with amendments, one of which includes anyone charged with driving under the influence having .05 to .079 BAC can have it cleared from their record.

It will now go to the House floor for a second vote before it is forwarded to the Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments