In a controversial move, the state of Utah recently passed a new law setting the state’s legal blood alcohol threshold for drivers at just .05%, the strictest drunk driving limit in the United States.
While the unofficial national standard for drunk driving remains at .08% blood alcohol content, the National Transportation Safety Board has, for several years now, advocated for .05% to become the national standard.
Though Utah is currently the only state to adopt this level as the legal blood alcohol threshold, other states such as Washington are considering similar measures, meaning that other states could soon see their DUI laws become stricter as well.
Champions of the measure say that the stricter drunk driving laws will make people safer, while the bill’s numerous critics say that it punishes responsible behavior and will damage the state’s tourism industry (the bill will go into effect in December 2018, just in time for the state’s New Year’s celebrations).
What the Change Means for Drivers
It’s impossible to say with complete accuracy how many drinks it takes someone to get to a certain blood alcohol level because these levels can change according to body mass. The exact level of alcohol needed to be consumed to reach the legal limit will be different depending on a person’s size. Other factors can change the rate of alcohol absorption as well, such as how much food someone has in their stomach when they start drinking.
Why the Change Is Controversial
Safety experts have been calling for the legal blood alcohol limit to be lowered and say that the change will help save lives. Despite the increase in penalties for drunk driving in the last few decades, many accidents are still caused every year by inebriated drivers. On average, 28 people are killed every day because of drunk drivers.
Critics of the law, however, say that the change will do more harm than good. Because the law is scheduled to go into effect just before New Year’s, 2018, some are afraid that the change will negatively impact the state’s tourism industry and local businesses. Others say that the law is too strict and does not effectively distinguish between people engaging in responsible drinking and those who truly present a danger to themselves and others.
Whatever your opinion on the change, Utah’s new DUI law could be a sign of changes in other states. Washington is also considering lowering the legal blood alcohol limit in the state, and a similar measure was recently proposed in Hawaii (though it did not make it out of the legislature). One thing is for sure though, if states other than Utah do begin to lower their blood alcohol content limit, drivers will have to be even more careful of how much alcohol they consume before driving.
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