82°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Utah lawmakers pass nation’s toughest DUI limit at 0.05 percent

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah could soon have the strictest DUI threshold in the nation after state lawmakers on Wednesday night voted to lower the limit for a driver’s blood-alcohol content to 0.05 percent, down from 0.08 percent.

The measure heads to Utah’s governor, who has said he supports the legislation.

If Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signs the bill, it would take effect Dec. 30, 2018 — an unusual effective date for Utah laws that would ensure the harsher standard is in place before alcohol-laden celebrations on New Year’s Eve.

Supporters of the legislation said it would save lives by keeping people off the road if they’ve been drinking. A mix of lawmakers, including Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, opposed the measure. Some cited concerns that it could hurt tourism as the heavily Mormon state grapples with its reputation as an unfriendly place for drinkers.

The proposal would mean that a 150-pound man could get a DUI after two beers, while a 120-pound woman could get one after a single drink, according to the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade group that opposes the bill. A number of factors, including how much food is in someone’s stomach, could impact how much a drink will raise someone’s blood-alcohol content.

American Beverage Institute Managing Director Sarah Longwell said in a statement Wednesday night that the proposal will do little to make roads safer because more than 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths in Utah come from drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 and above. “Utah legislators missed an opportunity today to target the hard-core drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of drunk driving fatalities and instead decided to criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” Longwell said.

Lawmakers in Washington are considering lowering the limit for blood-alcohol content this year, while a similar proposal recently died in Hawaii’s Legislature.

Across the country, the blood-alcohol content limit for most drivers is 0.08, but limits vary among states for commercial drivers or drivers who have had a past DUI conviction.

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, who sponsored Utah’s measure, said it’s important because a person starts to become impaired with the first drink. He notes a number of foreign countries have blood-alcohol content thresholds at 0.05. or lower.

At a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent, a driver may have trouble steering and have a harder time coordinating, tracking moving objects and responding to emergencies, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For several years, the National Transportation Safety Board has encouraged states to drop their blood-alcohol content levels to 0.05 or even lower, though local officials have not adopted the standards, in part because of pressure from the hospitality industry.

The tougher stance on DUIs comes as Utah legislators passed changes Wednesday easing other liquor laws that deal with the preparation of alcoholic drinks in restaurants. That measure, waiting for approval from the governor, would let diners see their drinks being poured or mixed if restaurants set up child-free buffer zones around bars.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Fatal shootout leads to traffic delays on I-15 in California

An abducted 15-year-old girl and her father — a fugitive wanted in the death of the teen’s mother — were both killed amid a shootout with law enforcement Tuesday on a highway in California’s high desert, authorities said.

Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida braces for Cat 4 damage

Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida on Wednesday.

Hurricane Ian nears Cuba on path to strike Florida as Cat 4

Tampa and St. Petersburg appeared to be the among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

EU splits on response to Putin’s call-up; Ukraine says it shows weakness

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said he’s bracing for more Russian strikes on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure, as the Kremlin seeks to ramp up the pressure on Ukraine and its Western backers as the weather gets colder.

Ian strengthens, poses major threat to Florida; Fiona hits Canada

Gov. DeSantis had initially issued the emergency order for two dozen counties, but expanded the warning to the entire state, urging residents to prepare for a storm that could lash large swaths of Florida.

Russians rush for flights out amid partial reservist call-up

Large numbers of Russians have rushed to book one-way tickets out of the country after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of military reservists for the war in Ukraine.

$250M stolen from food program during pandemic, feds say

“This $250 million is the floor,” Andy Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said at a news conference. “Our investigation continues.”