Utah is about to lower its drunk-driving limit, is your state next?

March 2, 2017

Utah may be the first state to lower its drunk-driving threshold below .08 BAC—and for the tl;dr crowd, yes, your state probably is next.

A Utah State Senate committee forwarded a proposal that would lower the state's threshold for adults from .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

For an average-size male, the difference would be three or fewer drinks in an hour, and for a female it would be two or fewer drinks. For some women, the lower limit could be only one drink.

The bill already passed the Utah House and will await a full vote by the Senate. While the Utah legislature could send the bill to the governor's desk for a signature soon, the new limit wouldn't take effect until Dec. 31, 2018, according to the report.

Although Utah has its fair share of blue laws pertaining to alcohol (look up "Zion curtain" if you're bored) that aren't likely to be adopted anywhere else, this may be one that catches on in other places.

The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for more stringent drunk driving laws nationwide, evidenced by their tweet above last year and testimony from Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairwoman for the NTSB, twice in support of the Utah bill.

A 2013 study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation concluded that single-vehicle crashes where alcohol was a factor were 7 to 21 times more deadly if the driver had a BAC of .05 to .079, compared to a stone-cold sober driver with not a drop in their system.

A representative from Utah's restaurant association said the bill could dissuade some diners from going out to eat if they were scared of the consequences of just one drink with dinner. Others said it would bring attention to Utah's already restrictive regulations on alcohol and discourage tourists. Still more said that adequately enforcing DUI measures already on the books could reduce deaths without lowering the limit.

Still, it's hard to argue that most other countries already have a limit of .05 (Sweden's is .02) and that in 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Center for Disease Control—nearly all of those deaths were probably preventable.

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