New York, NY(Law Firm Newswire) July 12, 2019 – The New York State Assembly and Senate are considering a controversial bill that seeks to lower the legal limit at which an individual can be arrested for drunk driving. Under the proposal, the state’s blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold would drop from .08 to .05 for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and from .18 to .12 for aggravated DWI. The legislation is currently pending in both houses.
Utah became the first state to adopt a .05 BAC threshold in December 2018. It currently has the nation’s strictest drunk driving law as the rest of the United States uses the .08 standard. However, New York and several other states have subsequently proposed bills that follow in Utah’s footsteps by lowering their BAC legal limits.
“While the proposal to lower the legal limit appears to be a well-meaning way to reduce the number of drunk driving tragedies on New York roads, it is unrealistic and ultimately misguided,” commented Peter Brill, a New York criminal defense attorney with Brill Legal Group. “Dropping the BAC threshold to .05 means innocent people face the risk of a DWI arrest and the harsh penalties that come with it. Not only will it penalize casual drinkers, but it is also unlikely to deter dangerous drinkers.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 70 percent of alcohol-related crash deaths in New York involve drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher. Just 2 percent of such fatalities involve an individual with a BAC of between .05 and .08.
The bill’s supporters argue that lower limits will prevent drunk driving and help save lives. Critics claim the change unfairly targets responsible social drinkers and will harm small businesses and tourism.
The American Beverage Institute has been especially vocal in its disapproval of the New York proposal. The group’s Communications Director Jackson Shedelbower called the bill “well-intentioned.” However, he said it will “do little to save lives” as the majority of drunk driving accidents are caused by “high-BAC and repeat drunk driving offenders.”
The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended all states to lower their DWI limit to .05 percent. Around 100 countries currently have a BAC threshold of .05 or lower. They have recorded fewer alcohol-related crash deaths overall despite having alcohol consumption levels that are on par with or higher than the United States.
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