Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our broadcast signal serving the St. George (93.9) area is operating in low power mode.
More info.

Bill To Lower Blood Alcohol Driving Limit From .08 to .05 Advances

Erik Neumann
Bella Dinh-Zarr from the National Transportation Safety Board spoke in favor of HB155 at the state capitol on Wednesday.

On Wednesday a bill advanced in the Utah Legislature to lower the blood alcohol limit for drivers from .08 to .05. 

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Norm Thurston, said HB155 would bring the state of Utah in line with over 100 other countries in terms of what is considered drunk driving.

"Eighty-five percent of the world’s population lives in a country with a BAC limit of .05, including essentially all of Europe, all of Canada, except for Quebec, essentially all of Asia, all of South America except for Peru and Veneuzuela, Australia and most of Africa," Thurston said. 

Bella Dinh-Zarr is the Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent federal agency that investigates traffic accidents. She told lawmakers that data shows changing blood alcohol limits has the potential to save lives.

"When we looked at the alcohol-impaired driving problem, we saw that 10,000 Americans were dying every year. And when we looked at all the different interventions, one of the most effective is having a .05 or lower BAC level," Dinh-Zarr said. 

But not everyone supported the bill. Steve Mills is the CEO of Uinta Brewing Company based in Salt Lake City.

"There are misconceptions about Utah drinking laws now," Mills says.

He says that while the law is well-intentioned, it would further stigmatize the state in the eyes of visitors and hurt businesses like his.

"How can the message be any different than, if you drink alcohol at all, you’re just not welcome in Utah?" he said.

Dinh-Zarr told lawmakers that NTSB research showed that lowering the legal blood alcohol level would not negatively impact alcohol sales or how much individuals drink, but that people are simply less likely to drive under the influence.

If lawmakers pass HB155, Utah would become the first state to adopt a .05 BAC limit. The legislation passed out of Senate Committee on Wednesday and now goes before the full Senate. It passed the House last month.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.