Legislators, MADD, Students, & Survivors Push to Lower NY State’s Blood Alcohol Limit from .08 to .05

Friends of Andrew McMorris, a NY Boy Scout killed by a drunk driver in 2018, rally for updated laws

Albany, NY – NY State Senator John C. Liu (D-Queens) and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) joined their colleagues, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and victims of drunk driving to urge New York State to lower the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) from .08% to .05%. The parents and friends of Andrew McMorris, a boy scout from Long Island who was killed by a drunk driver in 2018, also urged for NY to strengthen its antiquated laws.

From 2019 through 2021, drunk driving deaths increased by 52% in New York. This bill S776 (Liu) and A1627 (Simon) would make New York the second state in the nation to lower its DWI threshold to .05 BAC. In 2019, Utah lowered its threshold to .05 BAC and saw its drunk driving deaths reduced by nearly 20%, while rates in the rest of the nation increased. Over 100 countries around the world already have this updated standard.

The National Transportation Safety Board has long recommended that every state lower its BAC to .05 based on extensive evidence that it is a proven countermeasure that saves lives. Evidence indicates impairment begins at a lower BAC than the current 0.08 legal limit. Studies also show that lowering the legal limit does not increase arrests or burden the criminal justice system, nor does it cause undue damage to the hospitality industry.

State Senator John Liu stated, “The most effective way to reduce the number of lives destroyed by drunk driving is to keep people from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Over 100 countries around the world have already adopted the .05 standard and seen deaths due to drinking and driving decrease. The data is clear that people lose cognitive, motor and coordination skills at .05 blood alcohol content, and we need New York to lead the way here in the United States and pass this legislation to keep our streets safe and our families whole.”

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon stated, “We can prevent drunk driving tragedies by lowering New York’s blood alcohol content level from .08 to .05. Lowering the BAC changes behavior and is a proven countermeasure that saves lives. New York – and our country – is way behind other countries who recognized that .05 is the norm since there is an increased crash rate at that level. I'm thankful to Senator Liu and the coalition of families and advocates for supporting this important proposal."

Alisa and John McMorris, Wading River residents and MADD members, stated, “We are forever broken after the loss of our 12-year-old son Andrew McMorris. A drunken driver senselessly took our son’s life, in front of his father, while he was hiking with his Boy Scout troop. Andrew was ripped from our family, his sister, friends, teachers and scouts. Impaired driving leads to tragedy every single day on our roads and we want to make our roads safer, so no other family has to endure this preventable loss. We can no longer look the other way and need to encourage safer behavior. Lowering the Per Se Blood Alcohol to .05 % can save lives where other measures have failed and we can make drunk driving a relic of the past.”

Erica Linn, Sleepy Hollow resident and MADD member, stated, “We are in the midst of a public health and safety crisis in New York. Two out of three people will be affected by drunk driving crashes. We have seen a 54% increase in fatalities between the years of 2019 through 2021. I ask our legislators, if not now then when? We need this bill to pass so others never have to know the devastation drunk driving crashes cause for families. One life lost is one life too many.”

Carole Sears, Larchmont resident and MADD member, stated, “For 20 years, my children and I have lived with the pain of losing my husband and their father, Andy Sears, to a drunk driver. The pain does not diminish with time and our feeling of injustice grows. Changing the BAC law to .05 will help to ensure that fewer families will suffer the same inexplicable loss that our family has endured.”