Christine Cohen

State Senator

Christine Cohen

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Listening, Advocating & Getting Results

May 18, 2023

Sen. Cohen and Rep. Lemar Join Road Safety Advocates to Share Support for Lowering BAC Levels to .05

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Chairs of the Transportation Committee, State Senator Christine Cohen(D-Guilford) and State Representative Roland Lemar(D-New Haven), along with Ranking Members State Senator Tony Hwang(R-Fairfield) and State Representative Kathy Kennedy(R-119) joined representatives from the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to share their support for lowering Connecticut’s BAC limit to .05 for drivers.

Currently, the legal BAC limit for drivers is .08 and Connecticut ranks third nationally in fatalities due to impaired driving. Driving while impaired is the largest single contributor to road fatalities with 46% of all Connecticut traffic fatalities involving a driver with at least a BAC of .01. Studies indicate that drivers with a BAC of .08 show considerable impairment, and the risk of being killed for drivers between .05 and .79 is 7 times that of drivers with no alcohol (NIH/NIAAA, Voas)

As of 2023 there are more than 90 countries with a .05 BAC limit. Connecticut, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, New York and North Carolina have proposed bills to lower the limit to .05. If passed, Connecticut would join Utah who reduced their BAC limit to .05 in 2018. Once passed, Utah saw a 19.8% reduction in the fatal crash rate reduction from 2016-2019, while the rest of the United States showed a 5.6% fatal crash rate reduction during the same years.

Upon enacting the policy, Utah saw a boost to the restaurant and tourism industry. State officials reported an increase in visits to State and National Parks, spending went up by 7% and alcohol sales and tourism measures continued to increase.

For more information on the benefits of .05 BAC see additional resources from the Vision Zero Council here.

“The unfortunate reality is Connecticut has a drunk driving issue, ranking third nationally in fatalities due to impaired driving,” said Sen. Christine Cohen, Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. “I’m so pleased to be joined by so many fierce advocates for road safety in support of this proposal. It is important to note that we are not looking to prevent people from going out and enjoying our robust restaurant and entertainment industry. Instead, we are wanting to create a culture shift – if you are going to be drinking, make a plan for how you will be getting home.”

“Any drunk driving incident in Connecticut is a cause for concern,” Rep. Roland Lemar, House Chair of the Transportation Committee, said. “Our goal is simple: every resident of Connecticut should feel safe when they get in their vehicle, regardless of the time or place. As we gather here today and advocate for the passage of SB 1082, we are reaffirming our commitment to that goal. By lowering the blood alcohol limits for driving, we will unequivocally make our residents safer.”

“This proposal faces long odds this session, no doubt about it,” said Sen. Tony Hwang, Ranking Senator on the Transportation Committee. “But it has started what I view to be a productive conversation at the State Capitol. Lowering the blood alcohol content must be done with a full public awareness and educational campaign. This should also include cannabis awareness. We must keep the discussion going regarding making our state roadways safer for everyone and preventing dangerous accidents and tragic deaths.”

State Representative Kathy Kennedy, Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee said, “As Ranking Member on the Transportation Committee, it is my responsibility to uphold any measures that contribute to all drivers returning home safely, but as a mother, this is my priority. In our public hearing, we heard that lowering the BAC level has been proven by other states to reduce traffic fatalities by 20%, therefore, I look forward to experiencing these same safety benefits in our state by implementing this bill.”

“We know drunk driving is a problem, and lowering Connecticut’s BAC level to 0.05% is a clear solution,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation, Transportation Safety Program Supervisor Joseph Cristalli. “Scientific evidence shows that virtually all drivers are impaired at 0.05% BAC,” “The risk of being involved in a severe or fatal crash is significantly higher for drivers with alcohol in their system than drivers with no blood alcohol content. Dropping the BAC level to 0.05% would save lives and deter drivers from getting behind the wheel when impaired.”

“In countless investigations and studies, the National Transportation Safety Board has seen the devastating toll impaired driving takes on families and communities across our country,” said NTSB Member Tom Chapman. “Extensive evidence tells us lowering the legal BAC to .05—as proposed by SB 1082—is one of the proven countermeasures that saves lives.”

“Connecticut still is ranked in the Top 3 of all states having the highest percentage of fatal crashes involving alcohol,” said Bob Garguilo, Executive Director New England Region, MADD. “Many innocent men, women, and children are dying as a result of someone making the decision to drive a vehicle while impaired. “Research shows the impairment and crash risk are significantly elevated at .05 per se and higher. Given that data, MADD CT supports our state’s legislative efforts, which seek to create an illegal BAC limit of .05 per se.

“Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to improve road safety, urges swift passage of SB 1082,” said Peter Kurdock, General Counsel, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety. “This legislation will make Connecticut’s roads safer by lowering the limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving from .08 to .05 percent. Impaired driving is a deadly and costly threat to all of Connecticut’s road users that is entirely preventable. Taking this commonsense action will save lives and help to curb the scourge of drunk driving in Connecticut.”