On December 30, just one day before New Year’s celebrations will see most people hit the champagne, Utah will start enforcing a new and much stricter drunk driving law.
As reported by the Hill, the state will drop the standard for blood alcohol consumption (BAC) from the nationwide.08 to.05. This means that just two drinks could result in a DUI, in an effort to drop the number of road accidents that occur because drivers are impaired by alcohol.
The standard across the country of.08 was set by former President Bill Clinton in 2000, and this change will give Utah the strictest drunk driving laws in the country. The law will also mean that people over the new limit continuing to “operate a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another” will have committed felony automobile homicide.
Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, made a statement about the law change, adding that it’s unlikely that Utah’s adjustment to the limit will result in an instant nationwide sweep.
“I don’t anticipate other states immediately following. If it turns out this has been successful and is having an impact on drunk driving, it’s certainly possible that other states will follow.”
In 2017, it was determined that around a third of deaths on the roads in the U.S. involved alcohol-impaired drivers. Even so, Utah had the lowest instance of traffic deaths as a result of drunk driving, at 19 percent.
“Despite decades of public campaigns and other efforts to discourage driving after drinking, survey and observational data show that many people continue to do so,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a statement. “Over the last five years, there were 54,402 arrests for DUI in Utah, which represents an average of 29.8 per day.”
The state faced plenty of opposition for the law, with critics arguing that it would only serve to punish responsible drivers as opposed to preventing people who are really drunk from driving. The American Beverage Institute was one organization that opposed the change, arguing that the law should instead focus more harshly on those with much higher blood alcohol levels.
“I have no doubt that proponents of.05 laws are well-intentioned, but good intentions don’t necessarily yield good public policy,” spokesperson Jackson Shedelbower said in a statement this week.
The law was signed last year already, but is only being implemented two weeks from now. Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert explained that drivers who are suspected of driving over the legal limit will be pulled over for a sobriety test, and only those who fail will have to undergo a BAC test.
“We’re not saying people can’t drink. You can certainly access a drink, and you can drink until your eyes bug out if you want. We’re just saying don’t drive and drink.”