ST. GEORGE — A national organization is continuing its campaign against Utah’s recently passed .05 legal blood alcohol content for driving law by running a full-page advertisement in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that reads, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”
The ad, placed by the American Beverage Institute, hit the Nevada newspaper Wednesday.
“The ad warns Nevada vacationers of the potential to be subjected to DUI charges for having little more than a single drink before driving,” according to a statement issued Tuesday by the organization. “And since Nevada sends the third most tourists to Utah — behind California and Idaho — they need to understand how the new law could impact them.”
The full-page advertisement ends by warning Nevadans that it’s time to “rethink their vacation plans.” View the full-page ad in the Las Vegas Review-Journal here.
The group has been running similar ads in newspapers in Utah, Colorado and Idaho.
Sarah Longwell, the beverage institute’s executive director, said while supporters of the .05 legislation may have good intentions, lowering the BAC arrest threshold is a “mistake.”
“This law fails to target the dangerous drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities and instead targets moderate, responsible drinkers,” Longwell said. “At this level, a 120-pound woman could be subjected to arrest, $10,000 in fines, hiked insurance rates and the stigma of being labeled a drunk driver after having little more than a single drink.”
State legislators approved lowering the arrest level from .08 BAC to .05 BAC and Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law earlier this year. The new threshold in Utah takes effect Dec. 30, 2018, making Utah the first state in the nation to adopt a .05 BAC limit and the strictest DUI limit in the U.S.
The American Beverage Institute has also launched an online petition opposing the .05 percent blood alcohol content law and is strongly urging Gov. Herbert and the Utah legislature to repeal the law during the upcoming special legislative session in June.
The petition had garnered more than 1,300 signatures within 24 hours.
“It would be one thing if lowering the arrest level to .05 would actually save lives,” Longwell said, adding that all the law does is distract law enforcement officials from targeting dangerous offenders with a .15 BAC and above who cause 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Utah.
“Only 1 percent of traffic fatalities involve drivers with BACs between .05 and .08 because at those levels, impairment is not meaningful. In fact, talking on a hands-free cellphone is more impairing than driving at the current BAC arrest level of .08 and simply driving over the age of 65 is more impairing than the proposed threshold of .05.”
The group said traffic safety officials should focus on the “truly dangerous drunk drivers” while allowing both vacationers and Utahans to “enjoy a drink with dinner without the threat of jail.”
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