Utah Cuts DUI Legal Limit to .05, Lowest in the US

By Bryan Le 03/27/17

Critics of the law believe that it will financially damage Utah's bar and restaurant industry.

A woman walks a straight line for a sobriety test.
Utah residents are split over the bill.

Amidst major controversy, the state of Utah has passed a law lowering the legal driving limit to .05% blood alcohol content (BAC) from .08%, making it the lowest legal limit in the United States.

Governor Gary Herbert signed bill HB155 on Thursday, March 23. Defending his decision at a news conference, he stated that the bill would not go into effect until December 30, 2018 and that until then, it would undergo some modifications.

"I don't believe, for example, that this legislation is finished," Herbert said. "There are some areas of improvement I think are warranted and are necessary. And we can look at impaired driving and distracted driving and repeat offenders — those who in fact have been arrested for DUIs on multiple occasions — and our punishment, and what are the consequences of the punishment."

Polls by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics have shown that Utah residents are evenly split over the bill. Critics have pointed out that most of the support comes from non-drinking, “very active” Mormons while those of other faiths are very much against it.

Bar and restaurant owners are concerned that the new law will drive down drink sales and tourism, possibly causing smaller businesses to shut down. The American Beverage Institute took out full-page ads in USA Today to speak out against the bill, which included a mugshot of a woman and the caption: "Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation."

"It's a sad day for Utah," says Sarah Longwell, managing director at the American Beverage Institute. "Utah's 0.05 legislation will not only harm the people of Utah, but cripple their restaurant and tourism industries. A 120-pound woman can now have little more than a single drink before being subject to arrest, $10,000 in fines, attorney fees, increased insurance costs, and the social stigma of being labeled a 'drunk driver'—which will lead many to forgo that glass of wine with dinner."

Utah's governor also stated that numerous tourist destinations around the world, including Paris, France and Rome, Italy, have a .05 BAC limit.

"Where would you want to come and visit? You want to come to a place that's very safe and hospitable. That's what Utah is," said Herbert.

Gun rights groups also oppose the law, as it also seeks to punish those who carry firearms at .05 BAC as well.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter