Connecticut considering lower blood alcohol level to prevent drunk driving
Snow isn’t the only danger on the roads; so are drunk drivers. On Monday, the state transportation commissioner asked lawmakers to take a drastic step – cutting the legal blood alcohol content level by almost half.
If it passes, Connecticut would only be the second state in the nation to drop its BAC by that much.
“Connecticut has a drunk driving problem,” new Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto told a legislative hearing. “We're one of the worst-offending states in the nation.”
In 2020, Connecticut had the third highest number of drunk driving deaths in America, Eucalitto said. In the past year, a series of wrong-way crashes have gained attention, including one that killed state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams on his way home from Gov. Ned Lamont’s inaugural ball.
The DOT is now pushing a bill to drop Connecticut's legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05. Only one other state, Utah, sets it that low.
For perspective, the average-sized male will hit .08 after three to four drinks. For most women, it’s slightly less. Someone could hit a .05 BAC with just one or two drinks, depending on their size.
The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for a lower blood alcohol limit for several years.
“Research suggests that lowering the legal BAC limit to .05 will reduce fatal alcohol-related crashes by an estimated 11%,” said NTSB member Thomas Chapman. “Utah saw reductions in crash rates and alcohol involvement in crashes, while there was no negative impact on alcohol sales, tourism, tax revenues, or DUI arrests.”
In fact, Chapman told lawmakers that bars in Utah are seeing more business. He said customers are staying out later because they have a ride.
But here in Connecticut, drivers have mixed opinions about the idea.
“Something's got to be done,” said John Kroys of Easton. “They've got to start somewhere.”
Sheila Arnold of Norwalk agreed.
“I don't want no drunk drivers on the road,” she said.
But some drivers think a .05 BAC is way too low.
“I think if it's only two states rather than everyone else … just keep it like everyone else,” said Matt Troy of Norwalk.
Ultimately, Lamont would have to approve the law if it passed. Monday, the governor said he supports the change.
“I think if DOT is supporting it, I'd better be supportive of it,” said Lamont.
Under the bill, the legal BAC would remain at .02 for drivers under 21 years old.
Previously, Connecticut’s blood alcohol limit was .10, but lawmakers dropped it to .08 two decades ago after Congress threatened to withhold federal funding. Connecticut remains one of the few states that allows passengers to hold an open container of alcohol.
One day, if you've had too many drinks, your car will keep you off the road. The 2022 federal infrastructure law requires automakers to include automatic drunk driving detection systems on new vehicles made after 2026. But it’s unclear exactly what that technology could look like.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill to drastically ramp up the number of wrong-way driver detectors across the state.