After heavy lobbying by all sides, Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed a controversial bill to make Utah's laws on drunken driving the toughest in the nation — but anticipates tweaks before it takes effect late next year.
The bill, which will take effect Dec. 30, 2018, would make Utah the first state to lower the blood-alcohol limit to be legally drunk while driving from 0.08 to 0.05 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
The governor says the bill is still being refined, and he is open to perhaps creating lesser penalties for those arrested with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08 than for those with higher levels.
He noted that the National Transportation Safety Board has called for a 0.05 limit, and insists it will save lives. "The studies I've analyzed in depth show that impairment does begin and starts to show visible signs at 0.04 to 0.05," Herbert said, noting 0.04 is the federal limit for commercial truck drivers. "With the available information that we have, I think 0.05 is a good place to draw the line."
Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, told the Salt Lake Tribune that "Utah's 0.05 legislation will not only harm the people of Utah, but cripple their restaurant and tourism industries. A 120-pound woman can now have little more than a single drink before being subject to arrest, $10,000 in fines, attorney fees, increased insurance costs, and the social stigma of being labeled a 'drunk driver —which will lead many to forgo that glass of wine with dinner."