Angela Loprete raised her hand near the end of a state Capitol press conference and asked a handful of sympathetic lawmakers how hard it would be to just lower Connecticut’s blood alcohol limit for drunken driving to .05.
“Speak to me as a mother, not as the press. Talk to me as a mother that lost her daughter,” she said. “How can you help me understand?”
Loprete’s daughter, Maryann, was killed in a 2010 car crash in Stamford. The driver was three times over the legal limit, she said. Loprete, who now lives in Wethersfield, told reporters she wanted proponents of changing the law to quit focusing on numbers and focus on the victims of drunk driving.
“Talk about the people that lost their lives and I don’t know how difficult it is to lower this. It’s not rocket science,” Loprete said. “We know that, in Connecticut, we’re number three as far as fatalities. What is that Connecticut needs to do — that this building needs to do in order to pass this.”
The bipartisan group of legislators gathered at Thursday’s press conference were navigating the same question. The Transportation Committee advanced a bill that would lower the drunken driving limit to .05. If passed, the legislation would tie Connecticut with Utah for the strictest DUI threshold in the country.
However, the prospects of passing the bill look dim this year. House leaders said Wednesday they did not expect to approve the proposal and had not discussed the issue with their members.
During Thursday’s event, Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, told Loprete that advancing the bill would be complicated.
“It’s politics,” Cohen said. “We have a lot of work to do and I think we do have a lot of support for this, but it’s a culture shift.”
Proponents point to a decrease in fatal car wrecks in Utah after that stop adopted the policy in 2018, as well as the availability of alternatives to driving like rideshare services and public transportation.
But the change is a new concept in Connecticut, one which has so far failed to gain traction. On Thursday, House Speaker Matt Ritter said he expected his caucus would be split if asked to vote on the bill.
“I think some members would support it instinctively and I think some members would say we’re way out of line with other states,” Ritter said.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora also expressed reservations about the bill on Thursday.
“I think all of these accidents, people are far above the legal limit so to suggest that moving it to .05 is going to in some way improve Connecticut roadways is frankly the issue here,” he said.