Utah’s Legislature sent Gov. Gary Herbert a measure lowering the state’s legal threshold for drunken driving to a .05 percent blood-alcohol content Wednesday – a bill that will make Utah’s DUI threshold the lowest in the nation if Herbert signs it into law as expected.
Herbert’s public information officer, Kirsten Rappleye, said in an emailed statement Thursday that the governor “is supportive” of the bill as well as a companion measure legislators approved Wednesday that will ease the “Zion Curtain” barrier requirements for restaurants that serve alcohol.
“He doesn’t have an expected signing timeline yet, except that he must sign within 20 days of the session adjourning (on Thursday),” Rappleye wrote.
The DUI bill has also raised the hackles of alcohol-friendly opponents who have already been long at odds with the state’s existing .08 percent BAC limit.
Utah maintains a reputation as antagonistic to alcohol drinkers because of the teetotaling practices of the state’s Mormon majority, they argue, even though the .08 percent limit has been in force in areas of the country where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have a significant social influence since the federal government required tying highway funds to the DUI standard more than a decade ago.
American Beverage Institute Managing Director Sarah Longwell said in a statement to the Associated Press on Wednesday night that the proposal will do little to make roads safer because more than 77% 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 ... 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.