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Connecticut lawmakers weigh lowering legal blood alcohol content limit

Police officers check drivers at a sobriety checkpoint in Escondido, Calif.
Lenny Ignelzi
Police officers check drivers at a sobriety checkpoint.

Connecticut legislators and advocates gathered at the capitol on Thursday to call on lawmakers to lower the legal blood alcohol content level for drivers.

Senate Bill 1082 would lower the legal limit from .08 to .05.

The state has seen an increase in drunk driving fatalities — notably, State Representative Quentin Williams died in a wrong-way crash in January. Both Williams and the wrong-way driver, who also died, were over the legal limit.

45% of fatal driving accidents in Connecticut are caused by impaired drivers. That’s the fourth highest percentage in the country.

Bob Gargiulo is the executive director for New England for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He said the state needs to step up.

“We need to do something,” Gargiulo said. “And this thing, this bill doesn't cost the state taxpayers anything. It doesn't hurt anyone. It does what it's supposed to do. It's going to save a life, a life of your loved one, your own life.”

Lawmakers admitted the bill would be difficult to pass this session, but said they would keep the pressure on their colleagues. Only one other state, Utah, has been able to lower the legal limit to .05.

New Haven Representative Roland Lemar is the chair of the Transportation Committee. He thinks the country will lower the legal limit to .05 in the next 10 years — and Connecticut should lead the fight.

“Politically moving from .08 to .05, it's hard,” Lemar said. “But the science and data that we have at our fingertips is not complicated. Impairment begins at .05, that's an incontrovertible statement. Like we know that for sure.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.