Well, here we go! This last week the legislature in Utah sent Governor Gary Hebert a bill intended to lower Utah's legal limit for drunk driving to .05% down from .08%. The Governor has stated he supports the bill and is expected to sign it, which will make Utah's limit the lowest in the United States.
This legislation was opposed by groups who point out that 77% of the state's alcohol related traffic fatalities occur in cases where the driver's levels were .15% or more. They point out, arguably correctly, that the new law will now criminalize responsible drinking and do nothing to target the cause of most alcohol related traffic deaths.
Restaurants and other businesses expect the new law to have a negative impact on business in that a reduction in drinking will result in a reduction in the sale of food. They also fear that patrons of any establishment serving alcohol will be targets of law enforcement as they leaves. They also fear a drop in tourism in a state viewed by some as already challenged.
“So what's the problem in making our roads safer” some may claim? Not mentioned by proponents of the new law are the inherent inaccuracies in alcohol testing methods, both breath and blood. Even the manufacturers of breath testing devices will admit their machines have a margin of error. Alcohol also affects individuals differently, and clearly not all people will be impaired at a .05% level despite what lawmakers may assert. As a result it is likely that law abiding, responsible citizens will be caught in this dragnet, arrested, charged and convicted with potentially life changing consequences.
Could this .05% trend be enacted nationwide? If we look at the history of DUI laws it is clearly possible. The limit in the past nationwide was .15%. Due to the lobbying of anti-alcohol groups in the 1970's, the limit was eventually lowered to .10%. In recent years it has been lowered further to .08%. It seems clear as citizens that our best response to this government action is to become extremely wary of any situation involving consuming alcohol and driving.