Statement of Tara Gill, Senior Director Advocacy and State Legislation,
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
Lowering the Limit of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)While Driving From .08 to .05 Percent,
New York State Assembly Bill 3208 and Senate Bill 5117
New York, New York
May 24, 2019
Good afternoon, my name is Tara Gill. I am the Senior Director, Advocacy and State Legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Advocates is a non-profit traffic safety organization comprised of leading consumer, public health and safety groups and insurers. Our mission is simple. We work in every state and Washington, DC to advance laws that promote safer drivers, passengers and road users, safer vehicles and safer roads.
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff of summer and one of the most deadly holiday weekends for motor vehicle crashes. Advocates commends the timely leadership of Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz (NY-D-51) and Senator John Liu (NY-D-11) for advancing legislation, Assembly Bill 3208 and Senate Bill 5117, to lower the limit of blood alcohol content, or BAC while driving from .08 to .05 percent. This commonsense, proven policy will deter drunk driving and save lives.
Drunk driving is a deadly and costly threat to New York families and requires immediate action. In 2017, there were 999 fatalities on state roads and 34 percent of those deaths (342) were alcohol-related. Traffic crashes also cost New York taxpayers over $15 billion annually or about $780 for every person in the state. Moreover, drunk driving is hurting businesses. Nationally, these crashes cost employers $6 billion each year.
In New York State, a BAC of .05 to .079 percent is already evidence of impairment or driving while ability impaired (DWAI). Changing the law to lower the driving while impaired (DWI) limit to .05 percent simply unifies the DWAI and DWI laws and reinforces what the state has already noted; measurable impairment is evidenced at .05 percent BAC and presents a danger to road users in the state.
A recent report from the World Health Organization found that the U.S. has fallen behind other developed nations in reducing our traffic fatality rate. A key difference between the U.S. and these countries is the .08 percent BAC limit. Other nations enforce .05 percent or even lower BAC laws. Last year, Utah became the first state to enforce BAC at .05. While this law is widely employed around the world, it is time for the U.S. to catch up and enact this research-based countermeasure.
Our efforts in the U.S. to eradicate drunk driving fatalities have plateaued, indicating that progress has stagnated and even reversed. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released their comprehensive report, Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities and .05% BAC is a key recommendation in the report. The report noted that changing the BAC to .05% could save more than 1,500 lives annually. Lastly, it’s important to note that .05% BAC policy is not about putting aside other countermeasures or diverting resources but rather adding another proven and critically needed countermeasure to our efforts.
We are pleased to join our fellow speakers in urging the New York Legislature to advance Assembly Bill 3208/Senate Bill 5117 to send a clear message that drunk driving will not be tolerated and to protect New York families and visitors. Thank you and have a safe Memorial Day weekend.