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Utah becomes the first state to lower DUI limit to 0.05 percent

Utah has historically been a leader in reducing driving under the influence (DUI). It was the first state to lower its DUI limit to 0.08 percent in 1983, which led to the other 49 states doing the same over the next two decades.

Now, Utah is once again taking the lead to reduce DUI fatalities by lowering drivers’ blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits to 0.05 percent. This change took effect on December 30, 2018.

Utah state Representative Norm Thurston (R-64) sponsored the bill after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) requested it. Over the past five years, the board has urged states to lower their DUI limits to 0.05 percent, or even lower, after they released a safety improvements report for eliminating DUI-related deaths.

Disagreements on driving safety

For a 180-pound man, it would take four drinks on average to reach the previous BAC limit. For a woman of the same weight, it would be three drinks. Under Utah’s new law, those same individuals would only need to consume two or three drinks to be legally intoxicated.  

The American Beverage Institute opposes efforts to lower DUI limits to 0.05 percent, arguing that those who have a 0.05 percent BAC are no more intoxicated that someone talking on a hands-free cell phone. They believe the law targets social drinkers rather than those who are impaired and causing accidents.

Rep. Thurston, however, believes the new limit has the potential to save lives because it sends a strict message to anyone who even thinks they could be slightly intoxicated. He said many people he meets think it’s safe to drive while "just a little bit” drunk.

It will be interesting to see if DUI-related deaths decrease in Utah over time due to this change. And if it is successful, will the other 49 states once again follow Utah’s lead?

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