A proposal in the New York senate seeks to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration for drivers to 0.05%. The current limit is 0.08%. If the proposal becomes law, more drivers could face drunk driving arrests in the state.
What are the pros and cons of the proposed legislation?
Advocates for the change say lowering the legal limit will save lives. Utah passed a similar law in 2017 that advocates credit with reducing fatal crashes in the state by 20%.
Business owners argue that lowering the legal limit is overkill and could harm businesses selling alcohol. They argue that some people may reach a 0.05% BAC after drinking as little as a single glass of wine. However, data from the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration suggests that except for adults weighing less than 100 pounds, most people could have 1-2 drinks without hitting this level. Business owners fear people will stop ordering drinks with meals or decide to stay home instead of going out.
People often overestimate how much alcohol they can consume without becoming intoxicated. Lowering the legal limit could result in more people who have “one too many” drinks with dinner facing arrest.
Evidence exists that suggests that any amount of alcohol can impair judgment and physical function. Determining the appropriate legal limit is a balancing act between the interests of businesses and consumers and the safety of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others on the roads. While a lower limit could result in fewer car crashes, it may also have economic and other consequences.