Plan to lower drunk driving threshold draws mixed reaction

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 5:30 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A proposal by a state senator is looking to tighten up alcohol restrictions for drivers. It deals with how much you drink and whether you can be charged with drunk driving.

Supporters say it could save lives. A recent proposal by New York State Senator John Liu (D. - 16th District) aims to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration for drivers from .08% to .05%.

“I cherish more conversation about it. I’m a sheriff that is always, always up for stopping DWI,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Barnett.

The state senator cites a similar law passed in Utah that is credited with cutting the state’s fatal crashes by 20%.

That being said, Barnett has called the policy a double-edged sword, echoing sentiments from a Watertown saloon manager who told us it could have an adverse effect on business

“New York talking of lowering the BAC level. We think it’s a little bit overkill honestly. Unfortunately, I think it would put the fear into people just looking to have a drink or two with dinner,” said Sarah Rust, manager, Bad Apple Saloon.

You could hit a .05% BAC with about two beers or a single glass of wine if you drink it fast enough. With that in mind, Rust tells us a changed policy could deter some people from going out entirely.

“I think more people would be apt to stay home, especially in rural areas which you see a lot here. More people would be staying home out of fear of just having a drink,” she said.

Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli says his heart is with the victims of DWI crashes, but he’s not in favor of the new proposal.

“I know they’re trying to save lives. Unfortunately, you can’t put the human population in bubble wrap and act like it’s going to be all good. Something is always going to happen. That’s life,” he said.

Other groups in favor of the proposal include the NYC Department of Transportation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.