The legal limit for a driver’s blood alcohol level in New York could drop from .08 to .05 under a recently proposed bill.

Sponsored by democratic New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, bill number A03208 has been proposed to the New York State Assembly. It calls for the definition of “driving while intoxicated” to be changed from .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05.


The bill highlights that each year in the United States, nearly 10,000 people are killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and more than 173,000 are injured. Since the mid-1990s, even as total highway fatalities have fallen, the proportion of deaths from accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers has remained constant at around 30 percent of all highway fatalities.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recent recommendation to states to lower the BAC that constitutes drunk driving is also cited by the bill. Since 2004 all 50 states have set a BAC level of .08, reflecting the percentage of alcohol, by volume, in the blood.

The Unites States has a more lenient BAC for drunk driving than 100 other countries; nearly all European, Asian, and South American countries have adopted a standard lower than .08. When Australia dropped its BAC level from .08 to .05, provinces reported a 5-18 percent drop in highway fatalities.

If the bill becomes law, New York State will be the first in the nation to adopt the lower limit.