ALBANY — An effort to impose tougher drunken driving restrictions in New York is generating opposition from a national trade association representing restaurant chains and retailers.
The legislation from Democratic lawmakers would lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving while intoxicated from .08 percent to .05 percent, while also lowering the threshold for aggravated driving while intoxicated by a third to .12 percent. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in 2013 that states lower the DWI limit to .05 percent.
“New York state would be the first in the nation to adopt the lower standard and would set an example for the rest of the country that it has the will to make practical policy changes to reduce alcohol-related crashes,” reads the legislative memorandum.
The proposal is described as “well-intentioned” by American Beverage Institute communications director Jackson Shedelbower, but he claims it will do little to save lives.
“More specifically, the policy wrongly focuses limited traffic resources on moderate social drinkers, while ignoring legitimately impaired drivers who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of drunk driving deaths,” Shedelbower said in a statement.
He cites statistics that show 92 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve drivers with a blood-alcohol level of .10 or higher. “These are the criminals lawmakers should be targeting, rather than subjecting someone who enjoys a drink or two over dinner with all the life ruining consequences of a DWI,” Shedelbower said.
A 2015 study by AAA found that 63 percent of Americans support the .05 percent threshold. The lower level is also backed by the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.
Last month, lawmakers signed off on tougher alcohol restrictions for hunters. The legislation, lowers the blood-alcohol content level at which a person is found to be hunting while intoxicated from .10 percent to .08 percent.
The change would bring the limit in line with state laws governing the level of intoxication for motorists and boaters.
The state’s DWI level has been in place since 2002, and the boating while intoxicated level was set in 2003. The thresholds were set following studies that determined a person’s motor skills, perception and judgment could be substantially impaired with alcohol in their bloodstream.