Bill Proposed to Lower Threshold for Driving While Intoxicated

Bill Proposed to Lower Threshold for Driving While Intoxicated

by Mindy Cohn

On Tuesday, lawmakers pushed for the driving while intoxicated (DWI) limit to be reduced from .08 to .05 blood alcohol content in New York State to save lives. 

This new proposal comes after New York City experienced a spike in deaths from alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2021 when 42 people died. This number is significantly higher than the prior three-year average of 27 deaths per year. NYS police report that more than 30% of fatal motor vehicle crashes are related to alcohol. 

Lawmakers believe lowering the DWI threshold would save lives and reduce drunken driving crashes in the state. This was shown to work in Utah, a state with one of the strictest drunk driving laws. After Utah changed the drunken driving threshold from .08 to .05 blood alcohol content, a study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that crashes and fatalities fell around 20% from 2016 to 2019.

"It makes a difference, it makes a huge difference," says State Assemblywoman JoAnn Simon. "You can have a drink or two. But the reality is at 0.05, you start feeling the effects of that alcohol. You're impaired in a lesser way at .08, but you're still impaired." 

The lower blood alcohol content measure proposed in this bill is meant to deter risky behavior, not increase the penalties.

"It heightens the awareness that you can't drink as much and get in the car," Simon said. "It will reduce the amount of deaths because it will reduce the amount of people getting behind the wheel."

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