Advocates rally for legal drunken driving limit to be lowered to .05%

ALBANY – There wasn’t a single person who came to the State Capitol on Tuesday, stood on the Million Dollar Staircase, and wanted to be there. They felt they had to be. They came with a purpose, with passion, and with plenty of questions.

The push to lower blood alcohol limit to .05%

Details affecting local, regional and national news events of the day are provided by the NewsChannel 13 Team, as well as updates on weather and traffic.

“I ask all of our lawmakers, every single one of you, if not now, when?” Erica Linn asked. “How many lives have to be lost? How many families have to be destroyed?”

Linn’s family was destroyed on a Westchester County highway eight years ago when a drunken driver killed her parents, Carmello and Henrietta Sbezzi.

It was her 50th birthday, the day she decided to turn her pain into a passionate crusade.

“We can’t afford to lose any more lives,” she said. “We are in a building of power. We have our children here behind us. We do not want to lose another life to this 100% preventable crime.”

That’s why the staircase was filled with hundreds of victim advocates, all determined to influence state lawmakers to lower the legal threshold of drunken driving from .08% to .05%.

“What happens is when people know what that limit is, they abide by the limit,” explained Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D – Brooklyn). “Because they’re concerned about meeting that limit, they either drink less or they find another way home.”

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a point,” was the reaction from Scott Wexler, of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.

Wexler pointed out it is already illegal in New York state to drive with a blood alcohol level of .05%.

“All the data that we see from state police demonstrates that it’s the high BACs,” Wexler said. “These are people that frankly most likely have drinking problems, and changing the penalty from .08% to .05% won’t make much of a difference.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are backing the bill.

If New York were to enact that legislation, it would become the second state in the nation to lower the DWI threshold.

After Utah lowered its threshold to .05%, its drunk driving deaths reduced by nearly 20% while rates around the nation increased.