Earlier last year there was much discussion surrounding the idea of a new, lower national alcohol limit. The current 0.08 BAC is under attack from some groups that argue the U.S. needs to follow Europe’s lead and lower the legal drinking limit, something they claim will save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year.
Utah may become the first state to take such a step by stiffening its drunk driving limits. The proposal has been floated by a collection of legislators who hope to pass the new bill during the current legislative session. The legislators are working in conjunction with the Sutherland Institute on a bill that would reduce the blood alcohol legal limit in Utah to 0.05 percent.
Currently, the BAC limit in Utah, and every other state in the country, is 0.08 percent. However, there has recently been a push among certain groups who support a lower level that they claim will make motorists safer. The groups, including the Sutherland Institute, have joined a call by the National Transportation Safety Board for states to reduce the drunk driving threshold.
The move to 0.05 percent would bring the United States in line with many other countries around the world, especially Western Europe, which have for years had lower legal blood alcohol levels than the U.S. In Utah, the supporters of the measure say that at 0.05 percent, they believe the state would see fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths each year, a worthy goal they say they intend to pursue aggressively.
Though some have come out in support of the measure, others remain skeptical. For instance, a spokesman for the Utah Restaurant Association has said that while drunk driving is a serious problem, the majority of fatal accidents occur among very intoxicated drivers, not among those with very low BAC levels. Data supports this idea, with numbers showing that the average BAC for a drunk driver involved in a fatal accident is nearly twice the current legal limit, or 0.16 percent. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving have said they are neutral to the proposed lower limit, saying that police resources are best spent trying to stop severely intoxicated, repeat drunk drivers.
Additionally, Utah is a state with an especially small number of drunk driving traffic deaths, at least when compared to other regions. Nationally, around 31 percent of all traffic deaths are alcohol related. In Utah, the number is 12.5 percent. Some experts say that this makes Utah the state with the lowest drunk driving fatality rate. The reality is that the socially conservative state is already safe for motorists and opponents to the measure say that further measures are unnecessary and will instead result in the needless incarceration of drivers.
Source: “Utah Drunk Driving Laws May Get Tougher,” published at KUTV.com.