Prospects dim for last-minute push to lower Connecticut’s legal blood alcohol level

Amid an epidemic of drunk driving deaths, safety advocates are making a last-minute pitch to lower Connecticut’s legal blood alcohol content.

John Craven

May 18, 2023, 10:11 PM

Updated 366 days ago


Amid an epidemic of drunk driving deaths, safety advocates are making a last-minute pitch to lower Connecticut’s legal blood alcohol content. But even supporters admit the proposal is likely to fail this year.
“We think it's imperative that we get the information out there – we make the case as strongly as possible – even if we don't necessarily have the votes this year,” said state Rep. Roland Lemar (D-New Haven), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee.
On Thursday, Lemar joined the Connecticut Department of Transportation and national safety advocates to push for a bill lowering the BAC from .08 to .05. For some people, that's as little as one drink.
“Whether it be one drink, five, drinks or 10 drinks, you are impaired,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield).
In 2020, Connecticut had the third-highest number of drunk driving deaths in America, according to DOT.
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. A crash report revealed both Williams and the driver who caused the wreck were well-above the legal limit.
Some motorists think it’s time to take drastic action.
“All those crazy drivers and so much going on in this world these days,” said Madsen Jeune, who works in New Canaan.
The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for a lower blood alcohol limit for several years. Only Utah has made the move, but it appears to be working. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration review found drunk driving deaths dropped 18% there.
“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,” NTSB member Thomas Chapman told lawmakers in February.
Gov. Ned Lamont also supports the idea.
“I think if DOT is supporting it, I'd better be supportive of it,” he said on Feb. 27.
Despite Lamont’s support, the idea is getting a lukewarm reception from leaders at the state Capitol.
“I think there is a genuine concern, is this going too far?” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Republican leader in the Connecticut House. “A petite woman who has one glass of wine probably will be over the legal limit now, whereas a 6-foot man would not.”
On the Democrats’ side, House Speaker Matt Ritter does not expect the bill to get a vote this year.
“I think some members would support it, right? Instinctively,” he said. “And I think some members would say we’re way out of line with other states.”
But with so many drunk drivers, supporters think it's a conversation worth having.
“Anything to stop the DWI, go for it,” said William Oliver, another Norwalk driver.
Should Connecticut lower the BAC to .05? Take our poll.

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