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Lawmakers want to lower the legal limit to drink and drive

Utah and New York don’t have a lot in common, but if some Albany lawmakers have their way they’d both have the lowest legal blood alcohol level for drivers in the country.

The push could result in more arrests for drunk driving and — supporters say — fewer accidents.

City officials, including transportation commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, were in Albany Tuesday to show support for a bill that would lower the legal blood alcohol level to drive a vehicle from .08 to .05.

“Yes, we are very happy that Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez are fully behind this bill,” said state Senator John Liu, a Queens Democrat who sponsors the bill. “The city wants to make our streets safer, and it’s important that we lower the blood alcohol level concentration definition so that we further discourage people from getting behind the wheel after having alcoholic drinks.”

Right now, it can take someone several drinks to reach the .08 blood alcohol threshold. But depending on body weight, with the new standard, a person would be over the legal limit after just two drinks.

Supporters say with proper enforcement, the result will be fewer drunk driving accidents.

“One state, the state of Utah actually lowered their threshold to .05, and they have seen a marked reduction, almost 20% reduction in the number of fatalities related to drinking and driving,” Liu says.

Democrats say one concern that’s been raised in their conference is that people of color might be more likely to get stopped.

“The other thing we have seen from data in other places is that selective enforcement is an issue,” says Democratic Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon of Brooklyn, the bill’s sponsor. “But where it’s an issue, it’s about selective enforcement, not about the blood alcohol content.”

So far, the bill is only in committee. But the sponsors are hopeful they can get it passed in this Albany legislative session, which ends in June

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