Utah set to enact lowest U.S. drunken-driving limit

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2017 6:52 PM

By Tom James

(Reuters) - Utah Governor Gary Herbert said on Thursday he will sign a law setting the blood alcohol limit for drunken driving at 0.05, the lowest threshold in the United States, over strong objections from the restaurant and beverage industry.

The proposal would lower the predominantly Mormon state's blood-alcohol limit from 0.08, currently the standard across all U.S. states, to 0.05 as of Dec. 30, 2018, to try to improve road safety in the state.

"I'm here to announce that after thorough analysis, that I believe it is good policy, and that this new policy will in fact save lives," Herbert told a news conference.

A spokeswoman for Herbert, Kirsten Rappleye, said afterwards the governor planned to sign the bill before March 29.

Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, said her organization and other industry groups opposed the measure and see it as likely to hurt the hospitality industry in the state.

"It will be punishing those people who drink responsibly, and go out and enjoy an evening," Sine said.

The American Beverage Institute, a lobbying group, which had previously taken out ads advocating against the measure in newspapers in the state, released a statement condemning the move shortly after Herbert's statement.

Herbert also said he would likely call a special legislative session to address possible impacts of the law, and potentially delay its implementation, according to local media.

The National Transportation Safety Board has advocated for a national 0.05 limit, and its representatives testified twice in support of the Utah bill before the legislature, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The board said studies show that impairment starts after one drink, even at blood-alcohol levels as low as 0.04, the limit for commercial truck drivers nationwide.

Herbert said on Monday that the bill fit into a broader state goal of reducing traffic fatalities, alongside measures concerning seatbelt use and distracted driving.

(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)