Posted April 23, 2018 | Uncategorized
A push to postpone the effective date of Utah’s new drinking and driving bill did not garner enough support during a Salt Lake City legislative hearing on March 1, 2018. Starting December 30, 2018, Utah will be the first state in the country to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to 0.05 instead of 0.08. Here’s everything you need to know about the new driving under the influence (DUI) bill, its supporters and opposers, and what the latest hearing means for drivers in Utah.
House Bill 98 amends the state of Utah’s current DUI and novice driver laws, redefining what it means to drive under the influence. The bill would eliminate the phrase “novice licensed driver” from the definition of “alcohol restricted driver” and reduce the BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.05, as of the effective date December 30, 2018. The law would apply to drivers as well as to those carrying dangerous weapons.
However, HB 98 has come under scrutiny in Salt Lake City. The bill has been controversial, with main opponents from the tourism and hospitality industries and main supporters from transportation and health fields. For instance, the American Beverage Institute believes Utah shouldn’t lower its BAC limit if it isn’t enforcing current DUI laws. Health experts push for stricter BAC limits to deter people from drinking and driving, while opposers argue that a BAC of 0.05 isn’t enough to impair drivers.
House Bill 345 entered the 2018 General Session in Utah under Chief Sponsor Karen Kwan and Senate Sponsor Luz Escamilla, in an effort to delay the effective date for HB 98. HB 345 originally sought to push the new BAC limit’s effective date by four years – to December 30, 2022. The last version of the bill, however, asked for a one-year extension. The purpose of the delay was to give those in Utah’s tourism, hospitality, and law enforcement sectors more time to study the consequences of HB 98. HB 345 went to a Utah legislative hearing, where it died in a 5-3 vote against it.
The original effective date for HB 98, December 30, 2018, remains in place as of today. In fact, one of the voters (Rep. Paul Ray) says he was more convinced to vote against the delay proposed by HB 345 after hearing the opposers’ arguments. The Utah Highway Patrol showed evidence that DUI arrest rates had dropped since the passing of the law – even though the law had not come into effect yet. This fact might have contributed to the 5-3 vote to keep the original effective date.
Still, efforts to postpone the bill remain. For instance, Sen. Jim Dabakis introduced a bill in March that requested to delay the bill until at least three other states implemented similar laws. Legislation tabled this request for the foreseeable future. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states follow Utah’s lead and drop BAC limits to 0.05, citing the fact that more than 100 countries already have this lower limit. Further arguments regarding the new law may debate the affect the new BAC would have on gun rights – an issue that legislation seemed to skim over thus far.
As a driver in Utah, HB 98 will not impact you until its effective date of December 30, 2018. Lower BAC limits could mean a higher risk of a DUI arrest and conviction, however, when the bill does go into effect. It takes just one drink for the average woman and two drinks for the average man to reach a BAC of 0.05. To stay within the law (and to stay safe), never drink and drive. Next year, opt for public transportation or ridesharing to keep yourself safe from the newer, stricter DUI laws.