Utah’s Strict DUI Law Creates a Sobering Reality for the State

Although Utah’s state legislature is reviewing its disputed drunk driving law, the .05 DUI law is likely to prevail, according to R. Norm Thurston who sponsored the unprecedented bill that lowered the blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05. He told Fox13, “There are people who want to revisit the issue that has already passed. Well, the legislature has already spoken. The governor has already signed it.”

According to the bill that was recently signed into law and will go into effect in 2018, Utah will have the lowest blood alcohol minimum in the nation. There has been a public outcry among restaurants, bars and hospitality industries that operate in the state. It is estimated that a man who weighs 165 pounds could hit the .05 limit after just two drinks with a meal. Women who weigh 120 pounds or less could exceed the minimum with less than two drinks. Protestors have launched ad campaigns discouraging tourists from visiting Utah and there is concern that conferences will choose other states besides Utah because of the draconian DUI laws.

In a CBS interview, Republican state representative Norm Thurston cited public safety as the main motivation for the strict law. “The public safety impact of this law is so compelling that it is worth doing,” he told CBS. When confronted with the fact that Utah already has the lowest death rate from drunken driving in the nation, Thurston responded, “We’re not at zero.”

The law will most likely take effect in a version close to its current form in 2018, but an interim committee in Utah’s legislature is currently hearing from representatives from the food and hospitality industry about the effect of the law on their businesses and the state’s economy. Those who oppose the strict law are hoping that it may be at least softened.

Protests surrounding the new law have become vocal and have included a few surprises. One of the opponents of the law is Candace Lightner who founded M.A.D.D. or Mothers Against Drunk Driving and is now head of We Save Lives. Lightner told Fox that the current law is “unenforceable” and thinks more attention should be paid to drugged driving.