After Tragic DUI Crash Kills Toddler, Lawmakers Push to Lower Blood Alcohol Level to .05

Dallas-Albert-Angstadt
Pennsylvania State Police

Fifteen-month-old Liam was being pushed in a stroller by his aunt in a crosswalk in Hawthorne when a 72-year-old drunken driver plowed into the two. The crash ripped through the South Bay community, and the lives of Liam's parents.

Since his death, the couple has pushed to change the laws around drunken driving.

Last Friday, an Inglewood assemblywoman introduced Liam's Law, pushing to lower the blood alcohol level from .08 to .05.

Liam's parents, former MMA fighter Marcus Kowal and his wife Mishel Eder, fully support AB 1713. They've previously said they are hoping to eventually lower the legal blood alcohol content to 0.02 percent, like in Sweden.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, introduced the bill Friday, citing that it could save as many as 1,500 lives each year if the national blood alcohol level was .05.

Similar legislation has been passed in other states, with Utah being the first to officially lower the blood alcohol level to .05 Jan. 1.

On Sept. 3, 2016, Liam's 15-year-old aunt was pushing him in a stroller when 72-year-old Donna Marie Higgins' SUV struck them, and did not stop, police said. Witnesses followed her and stopped her from running until police arrived.

Liam sustained internal injuries as a result of the crash, and he was pronounced brain dead. His parents made the unbearable decision to take Liam off life support. They also donated his organs. 

Higgins was immediately sentenced to six years in state prison after pleading guilty to one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Kowal and his wife have since been trying to change the drinking culture in the U.S., saying that in his home country of Sweden, DUI's are taken much more seriously. 

"I grew up in a society where drinking and driving was very looked down on," Kowal said in a previous interview with NBC4. "Here in the U.S. it is very common; many people have one, sometimes two, three, four DUI's."

He and his wife have workd on a soon-to-be released documentary called "Letters to Liam" as they aim to end drunken driving.

"Our fight is not with the alcohol industry; it is just about not getting behind the wheel when you've been drinking," Kowal said.

The couple previously met with Gavin Newsom's chief-of-staff to help them navigate the legislative process as they try to draft a bill to lower the legal blood alcohol content in the United States from 0.08 percent to 0.04 percent.

Sweden is the country with the second-fewest road traffic deaths, with a rate of 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

In 2012, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System reported that 31 percent of road traffic deaths in the United States involved alcohol. Meanwhile, the Swedish Transport Administration reported 19 percent of road traffic deaths involved alcohol in Sweden in 2013.

Since the death of their first-born, Kowal and his wife have welcomed another son named Nico.

For more information on the family's petition or Liam's story, visit LiamsLife.org

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