NY State Lawmakers and the DOT Push to Lower Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration

By Olivia Corona

State Sen. John C. Liu (D-16), the New York State Department of Transportation, and organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Transportation Safety Board urge New York State to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from .08% to .05%.  

Impaired driving has become a public safety concern in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that about one person is killed in an alcohol-impaired driving-related accident every 45 minutes. States are now attempting to combat these statistics by implementing strict impaired driving laws.  

For example, in December 2018, Utah passed HB155 Driving Under the Influence and Public Safety Revisions. Their legislature lowered the blood alcohol concentration from .08% to .05% in the years since Utah has seen a significant decrease in fatalities attributed to drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study that found that Utah’s fatal crash rate dropped by 20% in 2019 compared to 2016 when the BAC was still at .08%.  

Beyond fatalities, the National Traffic Safety Administration Board (NTSB) claims that about 173,000 Americans end up injured in alcohol-related crashes, so safety advocates are challenging the standard. New York is just one among other states recognizing this as a public concern. Washington State and Hawaii are also putting together legislation to revise their laws and regulations regarding driving while under the influence.  

This legislation was reintroduced to New York in February 2022 by State Sen. John C. Liu (D-16), who urged the bill to be passed by 2024. Liu states, “The science and data are clear as day, lowering the BAC to .05 saves lives. The best way to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatalities is to prevent people from drinking and driving. Lowering the legal blood alcohol limit will make our streets safer and help keep our families whole.” New York City residents may think these new laws will not affect the city since many rely on public transportation.  

However, about 45% of households in New York City own a car, and the outer boroughs like the Bronx and Queens have some of the highest usages of personal transportation. Ydanis Rodriguez, the NYC Department of Transportation commissioner, highlights that fatal car crashes involving impaired driving happen in this city more often than we think. Rodriguez says, “Since the pandemic, we have seen an alarming increase in high-speed car wrecks, especially on highways, very often fueled by the deadly combination of driving under the influence.”  

This new legislation may feel extreme, but New York state lawmakers and supporters hope to save lives and separate drinking from driving. New York City is famous for its public transit. The city provides buses, ferries, Citi bikes, and around-the-clock subways for affordable prices. By lowering the blood alcohol concentration and having the number one ranked public transit in the country, advocates of this legislation are hoping to be among the nation’s lowest in alcohol-impaired driving. 


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