ST. GEORGE – An ad campaign by a national alcohol group targeting Utah’s new .05 blood alcohol limit has struck again, though this time it’s going after particular elected state officials 65 and older.
The ad states research shows individuals of that age are “more impaired” than someone driving with a blood-alcohol content of .05.
The ad features Gov. Gary Herbert, who is 70, along with 10 Utah legislators, including Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, who turns 67 next month, and Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, who is also 70.
“Research from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows people over 65 are more impaired ANY TIME they drive than consumers at Utah’s DUI arrest level of .05,” states the full-page ad from the American Beverage Institute (ABI) that ran the ad in The Salt Lake Tribune Thursday.
“If Utah legislators believe drivers at .05 should go to jail, should those over 65 be arrested for DWO (Driving While Old)?”
ABI’s managing director Sarah Longwell told The Salt Lake Tribune the ad is meant to show how silly the new .05 BAC law is.
“It’s absurd that you would keep people over 65 from driving and it’s absurd that a person who has had one drink and a low level of impairment would be put in jail,” she said.
The ABI has previously runs ads in Idaho and Nevada newspapers warning tourists to stay away from Utah due to the new law with lines like, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”
Utah passed the nation’s strictest drunk driving law earlier this year as it moved the blood-alcohol content limit for DUIs from .08 to .05. An argument supporting the change is that the new limit will ultimately save lives by getting people to change their attitudes and habits related to drinking and driving.
Basically, if you choose to imbibe, best not to think much about driving at all and leave it in the hands of someone else.
The law is supported by the National Transportation Safety Board which has advocated for a national .05 BAC limit since 2013.
While some may occasionally joke about older drivers – particularly in southwest Utah which is a favored destination for retirees – many state legislators weren’t so amused by Thursday’s ad.
“I believe that kind of an approach to influence policy in the state lacks class and is in poor taste,” Snow said Thursday.
As many of his constituents are 65 and older, Snow said, he feels the ad offends seniors in general.
“If I were Donald Trump at this point, I’d just call it fake news,” Snow told the Deseret News Wednesday, adding he is a very good driver.
As for Ipson, his response was a bit milder. “I have no response,” he said.
“The law is what it is and we’re making some tweaks to make it better,” he said, speaking of a recent meeting the Legislature had in June that addressed various issues, including the new BAC limit.
Some have expressed worries over the law’s “unintended consequences” once it takes effect Dec. 31, 2018, thus the needed modifications in part of it.
While Snow and Ipson both voted for lowering the BAC limit, the ABI’s ad has also drawn the ire of those who voted against it.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who expressed heavy opposition to the new BAC limit and started a petition asking the governor not to sign the measure into law, said over Twitter Wednesday: “I am appalled and outraged that they would put out this ad! Outraged!”
While on KSL’s “The Doug Wright Show” Thursday, Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who also opposed the new BAC law, said the ad was an attempt to bully legislators by putting their faces on the ad in an attempt to intimidate them.
“Ads like that go nowhere in Utah,” Hughes said, adding such ads “indict their own cause.”
“It might work in Washington, D.C., might work in other states, but that bullying, their fear tactics – it does not fly in our state,” he said.
As part of a press release issued Thursday, ABI clarified that it isn’t questioning the driving ability of those featured on the ad. Rather, it is meant to be an illustration of how absurd the beverage group believes the state’s .05 BAC law to be.
“Some have (perhaps willfully) interpreted the ad to mean that those over 65 shouldn’t drive. But the ad is making the exact opposite point,” the release reads. “Of course people over 65 should still be able to drive (assuming they are passing the necessary health requirements). The ad is meant to demonstrate just how unreasonable the new .05 limit is and put impairment levels into context.”
It further states: “For those legislators over 65 who have responded by saying they are great drivers — we agree! ABI does not believe those over 65 shouldn’t be able to drive any more than we think someone at .05 BAC should go to jail. It’s not an attack on older drivers, it’s an attack on the failed logic that led the legislature to pass this terrible .05 law.”
The ABI has also circulated a petition to repeal the law which it claims has garnered 15,000 signatures thus far.
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