UTAH POISED TO LOWER DUI BAC TO .05%


Utah is considering becoming the first state in the United States to lower the DUI threshold to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% The bill has actually been passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor but has not taken effect yet. The DUI level in every other state including California is .08%.

The bill’s supporters argued that the lower threshold would save lives and discourage individuals from drinking at all when driving. But other groups and politicians argued that such a stringent law would separate Utah from the rest of the nation and result in a loss of tourism from both individuals and business groups. Some groups are running ads in neighboring states discouraging tourists from visiting Utah. Others have argued that the .05% level is too low and that if the government was actually concerned about safety, they would lower the speed limit or ban cell phones.

The reality is that DUI levels have progressively been lowered over the years to the point that by 2004, every state in the nation including California had the limit set at .08%.  The National Transportation Safety Board actually voted in 2013 to recommend the limit be lowered to .05%. Surprisingly, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did not support lowering the level at the time. She expressed concern that the lower level would be unenforceable, lead to less stringent of overall enforcement and turn public sentiment against DUI laws. That stance remains the position of the national organization but the Utah leader of MADD supports the bill.

California is going to be facing this issue at some point within the next few years. Hawaii is currently considering a bill that would also lower the legal limit from .08% to .05%. The question will then be whether the state is going to follow the lead of Utah as California moves towards criminalizing drinking alcohol and driving. Judging by the historical trends, do not be surprised if California follows suit.


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