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Lawmakers Toughen Utah's DUI Trigger


Senators cleared the way Wednesday for Utah to become the toughest state in the nation when it comes to driving under the influence. They passed a bill, HB155, to lower the state’s blood-alcohol limit to .05 -- the lowest DUI threshold in the nation.

“It does save lives,” said sponsoring Sen. Stuart Adams, a Layton Republican who argued lower levels would mean fewer impaired drivers behind the wheel. “It’s estimated 1,790 lives in the United States, perhaps 63 in Utah.”

Utah was at the forefront of the movement to lower blood alcohol levels in the 80’s, and Adams said lowering the current standard of .08 would improve public safety even more. It also would bring Utah in line with more than 100 countries around the world.

Some lawmakers argued against the bill, saying the change would do little good in an already-strict state while actually harming Utah’s image for visitors.

But Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, disagreed: “I think we need to send a message that you do not drink and drive and, if you do, you’re taking risks.”

The bill passed, 17-to-12.

An aide says Governor Gary Herbert supports the bill. And, if he signs it, the stricter DUI standard will go into effect just before New Year’s 2019.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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