Good afternoon. My name is Jennifer Homendy. I’m a Board Member with the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating transportation disasters, including highway crashes, determining probable causes, and issuing safety recommendations to prevent future crashes and injuries and save lives.
Let me first say, on behalf of the NTSB, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to the McMorris family, the Kowal family and other families who’ve experienced the devastating consequences of an impaired driving crash.
I’m here today in support of Assembly Bill A3208 and Senate Bill 5117 which would lower the BAC limit in New York from .08 to .05 and close out our safety recommendation to New York on this important issue.
Ending Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. The Most Wanted List identifies top safety improvements that can be made across all modes to prevent accidents, minimize injuries, and save lives. Lowering the BAC to .05 is one of the safety recommendations on the Most Wanted List and is also highlighted in our 2013 Reaching Zero report.
We all know that drinking and driving kills, but what most people fail to recognize is that impairment begins at the first drink. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability.
The solution is simple – drink OR drive, don’t do both – because the costs of making the wrong decision are far too great. I’m not talking about the economic costs; I’m talking about the lives that are lost and the lifelong impact that these senseless and preventable tragedies have on victims and their families.
In New York, 295 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2017. In fact, 30% of all traffic fatalities in New York are due to alcohol-impairment.
Nationwide, the numbers are even more staggering: more than 10,000 people die annually on our nation’s roads in alcohol-involved crashes; that’s 29 people every single day, or 1 every 48 minutes. Think about that, in the time we’ve held this press conference, at least 1 person died in an alcohol-related crash.
This weekend is Memorial Day, which marks the beginning of the summer, and people celebrate with family, food, and often alcohol. Holiday weekends like these are also marked with an increase in alcohol-impaired crashes and fatalities.
The real tragedy is that these deaths are 100% preventable.
Lowering the BAC limit to .05 will serve as the catalyst to change behavior and help encourage New Yorkers to separate drinking and driving. As I said earlier, you can drink responsibly, you can drive responsibly, but you can’t do both.
Again, I want to thank Assemblyman Ortiz and Senator Liu for introducing this important legislation and for their efforts to improve safety in New York.