Lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving to 0.05 BAC will do little to save lives, and criminalizes moderate and responsible drinking

Washington, D.C. (January 29, 2019)—Today, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) announced its opposition to legislation introduced in New York that would lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving from the nationally recognized level of 0.08 to 0.05 BAC in the state. ABI says Assembly Bill 3208 is misguided and would be ineffective at advancing traffic safety.

Although well-intentioned, this bill will do little to save lives because it redeploys limited traffic safety resources to target moderate and responsible social drinkers, rather than focusing on high-BAC and repeat drunk driving offenders who are responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic deaths.

In New York, nearly 70 percent of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities involve someone with a BAC of 0.15 or above. In contrast, only 2 percent of traffic deaths involve someone between the disputed interval of 0.05 and 0.08 BAC—such a low BAC level that it’s unlikely alcohol was even a primary contributor to the accidents.

Unsurprisingly, a driver is not meaningfully impaired at 0.05 BAC. A 120-pound woman can reach the .05 threshold after little more than a single drink and a 160-pound man will hit that level after two. In fact, someone talking on a hands-free cell phone while driving—which is considered responsible cellphone use—is more than twice as impaired as a driver at 0.05 BAC.

Jackson Shedelbower, communications director of the American Beverage Institute, released the following statement:

I have no doubt that proponents of lowering the legal limit in New York want to save lives, but pursuing legislation that will subject responsible drinkers to the life-ruining consequences of a DUI won’t accomplish that goal. Instead, lawmakers should double down on targeting high-BAC and repeat drunk driving offenders who are responsible for the lion’s share of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in New York. Passing legislation that is only “tough on drunk driving” in sentiment, but not in practice, is not the solution to the drunk driving problem and will do little to save lives.

In Depth on the Issue

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