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Utah Legislators Facing Criticism After Lowering the DUI Threshold

By: Ryan Gallagher January 19, 2018
A new Utah law reducing the blood alcohol content limit for a DUI from .08 BAC to .05 BAC is receiving criticism from an alcohol lobbying group, which says one beer can put a driver in danger of a conviction.

Recently, the rules regarding drinking and driving in Utah have shifted, and now the topic has become a source of debate.

In March 2017, Utah became the first state to lower the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers from 0.08 grams to 0.05 grams after Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed House Bill 155. The law takes effect in December 2018.

Now, state legislators are receiving push back from a national hospitality and alcohol trade group from Washington, D.C. called the American Beverage Institute (ABI). In an ongoing campaign against Utah’s new BAC limit, ABI has issued news releases, published studies on their website to discredit the law, and even stepped into the world of advertising.

In July 2017, ABI officials took out a full-page ad in the Salt Lake Tribune to rally the public against the law. The ad reads “Too Impaired to Drive?” and pictures the faces of Utah legislators over 65 years old, saying older drivers are just as impaired as someone with a 0.05 BAC.

Recently, the organization’s officials have placed a higher importance on enforcing the installation of ignition interlock devices for convicted DUI offenders rather than going after less intoxicated drivers. 

“Instead of targeting moderate, social drinkers, Utah lawmakers need to focus on high-BAC and repeat offenders who are responsible for a vast majority of alcohol related fatalities,” said Sarah Longwell, ABI’s managing director.

Historically, Utah police officers have had enforcement issues with drivers who were found guilty of operating a car while intoxicated. About 72% of Utah’s DUI offenders have failed to install the required interlock devices, a provision that is key to regaining driving rights after a DUI conviction.

This is largely due to the fact that convicted drivers are not mandated to show they have installed the device. Therefore, DUI offenders who’ve abstained from incorporating the ignition interlocks only face court fines or license suspension if they are caught driving without the device, said Chris Caras, director of the Utah Driver’s License Division.

Though ABI has yet to see change, the new BAC law could be up for revision during the 2018 legislative session.

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