If you’re considering moving to Utah but enjoy a couple of cocktails on occasion, you may have to rethink your decision to move to the Beehive State, or you have to make sure there’s always a designated driver available for you.
While saying you can never take your vehicle to a restaurant, bar or party again may be a bit dramatic, a law passed in 2016 that lowers the legal limit for drivers’ blood alcohol content (BAC) from 0.08% to 0.05% is very serious, and Utah will soon have the strictest DUI laws in the country when it goes into effect in just a few weeks. At the current time, a BAC of 0.08% is the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in every other state and Washington, D.C.
Those For and Those Against the New Legal Limit
Traffic safety advocates and highway safety agencies are supportive of the measure and feel the stricter DUI law will make for safer roadways; fewer accidents, injuries and deaths; and fewer DUI arrests. Some business owners, however, are worried that patrons leaving their restaurants and bars after only a drink or two will find themselves in a world of trouble if they’re pulled over by law enforcement.
They also are concerned about their businesses suffering financial losses; those in the service and hospitality industries feel fewer people will come to their establishments to enjoy a meal and a cocktail because one or two drinks can result in a BAC of 0.05% or higher in some people depending on their weight, how full their stomach is, and the rate at which they are able to metabolize alcohol.
Utah, the First, but Probably More to Follow
While Utah is now the state with the strictest DUI law, it’s likely that other states will follow suit, but not this year. In early 2018, New York and Delaware considered lowering the BAC threshold to 0.05%, as did Hawaii and Washington in 2017. While those proposals never got anywhere, both those for and against lowering the BAC to 0.05% say other states will be proposing legislation in 2019. Utah is the guinea pig, so to speak, and it will be interesting to see how the new DUI BAC level will affect accident, fatality and DUI arrest statistics in the state.
Preparing for Change
With the change in the law coming in just a few short weeks, the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) and other law enforcement agencies are gearing up by providing additional hours of training including a review of the state’s policy on how to spot impaired drivers and how to properly use Breathlyzer tests.
Utah Highway Patrol Captain Steve Winward says his agency will use new software to track the number of arrests with the lower BAC threshold to determine the success of the new law. According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, many lawmakers feel that Utah residents have not realized the law passed two years ago doesn’t go into effect until the end of this year and have been drinking and driving less often for fear of having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 or higher.