Utah’s governor signed legislation Thursday lowering the blood alcohol limit for motorists from .08 to .05, putting the predominately Mormon state on path to instil the nation’s strictest drinking and driving law.
House Bill 155 is officially slated to take effect late next year upon garnering Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s autograph Thursday evening, several hours after he told reporters to expect his signature in the face of opposition from local hospitality and tourism industries alike.
“As governor, my ultimate responsibility is to evaluate this input and determine whether or not the bills placed on my desk will make good public policy,” Mr. Herbert said after Thursday’s signing. “This law will save lives, therefore it is good public policy and will move us closer to achieving our goal of ‘Zero Fatalities.’”
Opponents argue Utah establishments stand to lose business under the bill since it would deter individuals from consuming even minuscule amounts of alcohol. The governor insists the legislation will make the state safer, however, and said he hopes to address critics’ complaints by fine-tuning the legislation before it takes hold December 30, 2018.
“This law does not target drinking; it is a public safety law that targets impaired driving,” Mr. Herbert said Thursday.
Nonetheless, he admitted the legislation is far from finished and urged stakeholders to attend hearings in the coming months to help modify and improve the measure before it takes effect.
“There are some areas of improvement I think are warranted and are necessary,” Mr. Herbert said, adding: “Everything is on the table.”
Specifically the state may consider a revision lessening penalties for motorists arrested with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08, as well another option that would delay implementation until other states enact similar laws first, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Melva Sine, the president of the Utah Restaurant Association, told the Tribune she hopes individuals on either side of the argument will fine-tune the law together to ensure an easy roll-out when it takes effect in nearly two years’ time.
“This issue is now on everyone’s radar and they know the impact it will be to our industry and the state,” she told the newspaper. “There are a lot of things that haven’t been considered on both sides so we need to make sure we do this right.”
Consuming a single beer is potentially capable of raising an individual’s blood alcohol content to .05, according to the American Beverage Institute, a trade group opposed to the bill, effectively making it illegal for some people to soon get behind the wheel in Utah after one drink.
Other states currently have a .08 BAC threshold for most motorists, though commercial drivers and others are subject to more stringent DUI rules.
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