ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some New York lawmakers are pushing for a bill to lower the threshold for driving while intoxicated. There have been some similar bills before, but legislators say there’s a cultural change taking place now with drinking and driving.
Democratic lawmakers Assemblywoman JoAnn Simon and State Senator John Liu are backing the bill after Utah lowered their BAC limit a few years ago. The National Travel Safety Board has been studying drunk driving for years and is now recommending it for all states.
The threshold for DWIs currently stands at 0.08 BAC or blood alcohol content. State Senator John Liu says lowering this level to 0.05 aims to reduce crashes due to drunk driving, and ultimately save lives.
“Based on science and the data that’s been accumulated. 0.05 is a threshold at which humans already start to lose some of their visual, motor, and cognitive abilities,” Liu said. “It kills kids. We don’t want that to continue to happen.”
As the law stands now, a person could consume about four to five drinks before hitting a 0.08 BAC level, depending on their size. Lowering the BAC limit would decrease this to about two to three drinks.
He says it’s not about trying to figure out how many drinks will get you to the 0.049, just below the 0.05 threshold.
“It’s about trying to encourage New Yorkers to enjoy your drinks, just don’t drive right afterwards,” Liu said.
State Senator Jeremy Cooney of the 56th District weighed in on the bill in support, but says it’s just one piece of many to creating safer roads. He says the other part is making sure existing technologies are being used, liked interlock ignition devices. That device allows you to blow into it to determine your BAC level before you can drive.
Attorney Dennis Nave of Nave Law Firm in Syracuse released a statement in opposition to the bill saying quote “Lowering the DWI limit to .05 unreasonably deviates from the core purpose of DWI laws—to criminalize intoxicated driving. Moving the limit to a .05 moves the law towards a “zero tolerance” policy criminalizing virtually any consumption of alcohol before operating a motor vehicle. It is not targeting the true danger to society—intoxication—but rather opens the floodgates to the criminalization of otherwise non-threatening behavior.”
Senator Liu says the bill would not increase penalties if someone gets a DWI. It would only change the measure to deter people from making poor decisions. Penalties for a DWI would still result in a mandatory fine of $2,500 dollars, up to a year in jail, and a revoked driver’s license.
Senator Cooney adds this bill will need to go to the Senate Transportation Committee first before heading to a vote at the State Assembly and Senate. We’ve reached out to Republican lawmakers as well but have yet to hear back.