Utah lawmaker proposes lowering legal DUI limit to .05

Alcoholic drink and car keys, stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A Utah legislator wants to lower the state’s legal blood-alcohol level from .08 to .05. If successful, the move would give Utah the strictest DUI limit in the nations.

“It’s a needed change for the whole country,” Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said in a press release Dec. 30. “It is well known that impairment begins with the first drink, but many drivers don’t realize that even low levels of BAC (blood-alcohol content) can degrade skills and increase the risk of crashes.”

Thurston goes on to argue that lowering the legal limit will reduce deaths, injuries and losses related to alcohol-impaired driving. He plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming 2017 session for this purpose.

A single car wreck at 800 East and 100 South by Dixie State University Tuesday night resulted in the arrest of the driver for alleged DUI and running from police, among other offenses, St. George, Utah, Feb. 16, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
File photo. A single car wreck at 800 East and 100 South by Dixie State University Tuesday night resulted in the arrest of the driver for alleged DUI and running from police, among other offenses, St. George, Utah, Feb. 16, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“More drivers will become aware that there is a significant increase in risk that occurs well before reaching .08,” he said.

While Utah would be the first state to implement Thurston’s proposal if passed by the Legislature, the .05 limit is already observed by many European and Asian counties, while some countries have a limit of .00.

Across the country, the blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers is generally .04.

“Utah can lead the way as the first state to lower the legal limit to .05 for the general population,” Thurston said. “This will make it more clear that drinking and driving is not acceptable.”

According to Zero Fatalities, a website that promotes driver safety, impaired driving (via alcohol and drugs) was the second leading cause of fatalities on Utah’s roads in 2015. It was beat out by people not being restrained by seat belts and aggressive driving.

Impaired driving has also been a leading cause of fatalities in Utah overall for the last 10 years.

You don’t want people at .07 driving. You don’t want people at .05 driving,” Thurston told Fox 13 News. “In reality, you don’t want people lower than that driving because they are starting to be impaired as low as .02 or .03.”

While Thurston’s proposed legislation has its supporters, one group well-known for standing against drunk driving isn’t on board.

The Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving will not support the potential bill. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the group sees lowering the legal limit as an unrealistic venture that is unlikely to be enforced.

Art Brown, MADD’s Utah chapter president, told Fox 13 News, that MADD wants to see more focus on interlock devices than lowering the legal blood-alcohol content limit.

MADD’s position is we really emphasize interlocks and getting those on people, and staying .08,” Brown said.

A group that supports Thurston’s potential bill is the Sutherland Institute, one of Utah’s conservative think tanks.

“Lowering the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level from .08 to .05 is about protecting innocent people from impaired driving,” Derek Monson, policy director for the Sutherland Institute, said in a statement to Fox 13 News. “Our laws have misled the public into thinking that as long as drivers are under .08 BAC they are not impaired, when the data show that at .05 BAC drivers exhibit clear signs of impairment and crash risk jumps significantly.”

Connor Boyack, president of the libertarian think tank Libertas Institute, said over Twitter Dec. 30 that Libertas would fight the bill.

Boyack told the Deseret News the potential legislation could end up causing more harm than good. He was also critical of DUI enforcement in general as it penalizes people who haven’t actually harmed anyone.

“Certainly, if that reckless behavior leads to harming another person, then serious penalties should come in,” he said. “But without a victim, our position would be the Department of Public Safety should be focused on resolving that concern without punitive action.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • Real Life January 4, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    What are the chances that Norm Thurston is a Mormon? I would bet the farm.

    • MortyMcFly January 5, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      So weird, thats the first thing I was thinking:)

  • 42214 January 4, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    If you claim to be serious about traffic safety, try ending the practice of open book tests for licenses. I think this is just another LDS zealot imposing his religious beliefs through law.

    • Lastdays January 5, 2017 at 6:34 am

      So taking away the ability for people to drive drunk enough to kill innocent people is just a “Mormon” thing ?? I think drinking at all and driving is right there with texting and driving. Zero Tolerance!

      • 42214 January 5, 2017 at 10:33 am

        .08 or the proposed .05 BAC is the “presumtive” level for driving under the influence. I think lowering it too low is challenging the medical data where presumtiveness becomes arguable. Your accusation of wanting to allow people to drive drunk and kill others is hyperbole. I don’t think it’s just a Mormon thing, but I doubt Mr Thurston is catholic.

  • .... January 5, 2017 at 12:35 am

    This is absolute fantastic news and I’m sure this will result in a positive reaction from the community and I would like to thank all those involved in making this possible

  • Ron January 5, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Well this should be interesting.
    With the alcohol content in Utah beer at 2%….lowering the legal b/a level to .05, a driver would barely be considered buzzed.
    Go ahead and lower it. And watch the state again become the laughing stock of the tourism industry.
    See how that works out.

  • ladybugavenger January 5, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Sounds like a money maker.

    Dont drink and drive! Don’t drink at all and drive and I’ll tell you why, once you start drinking one always thinks they are ok to drive or that you’re not buzzed. It does not take much alcohol in your system to be at a .06

  • JOSH DALTON January 5, 2017 at 11:29 am

    yup, I agree with the above statement. “laughing stock of tourism industry” its true. Go sit at the Rib and Chopped house during the Huntsman Senior Games. Those ol Folks want to kill the bartender just for following the law. I was there, I saw it with my own eyes. She got yelled at for not allowing someone to have a double. Here is a great idea. Legalize Marijuana, drop the legal limit for a DUI to .02, and raise the drinking age to 25. Oh wait that would make to much sense. I guess that’s why I am not a law maker. I also cant spell. GO FALCONS!

    • Proud Rebel January 5, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      No Josh, I think the real reason you are not a law maker, is that you have some ethics and morals.

  • Proud Rebel January 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    This is just another sad attempt by a politician, to keep his name before the voting public. If they want to keep DUI to a minimum, then enforce the current laws. And yeah, SOME LDS folks not only drink, but drink and drive. They’re as human as everybody else.

  • DB January 5, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    This probably has as much chance passing as the inevitable one that would end daylight savings. (which I would support, by the way) Can a patrolman really spot a driver who would blow a .05? Don’t think so, in most cases.

    • 42214 January 5, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      The problem is not an officer trying to spot a .05 driver displaying objective symptoms of impaired driving. That is what the offier is suppose to do. Articulate observed symptoms leading up to probable cause to make a stop. The problem is making random stops for equipment violations or other stops having nothing to do with articuable facts of impaired driving where the officer smells an alcoholic beverage on your breath and the officer sticks a breathalyzer device in your face and orders you to blow. This leads to random searches in violation of the 4th ammendment and an abuse of power.

  • utahdiablo January 5, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    hey Norm, how about doing something about the FLDS ripping off the US taxpayers for 12 Million in welfare fraud from 2011 through 2016, those lawbreakers only got a $100 buck fine! That money could have gone to the really needy here in Utah

  • Michael January 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I find it rather interesting that the State controls and sells the alcoholic beverages an yet they are the ones making the blood alcohol rates. Sounds like a set up to me.

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