The National Highway Transportation Board (NTSB) is encouraging all states in the U.S. to change the threshold of drunk driving from .08 to .05. Back in 1983, Utah was the first state to drop the limit from .10 to .08, which became a nationwide federal mandate in 2000. The NTSB wants Utah to be first in the nation again, in hopes that other states will follow suit, but some are pushing back on the proposal.
The LDS Church has taken no formal position on the bill. Many non-LDS see this as an LDS attempt to further marginalize people who drink alcohol. In yesterday’s Radio West program, Doug Fabrizio discusses pros and cons of the proposal. It was noted that many countries have already seen a drop in drunk driving, and even in Europe with a much larger drinking culture, many nations have Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) as low as .02. Some note that public transportation is much better in Europe. Australia and Canada seem to have a similar driving culture as the United States has a BAC limit of .05. The NTSB would like to follow the pattern of these other countries and feels there will be a drastic reduction in drunk driving deaths as a result.
Some Utah legislators noted that there were just 6 deaths in Utah in 2013 (the last year in which data is available) where the driver had a BAC content between .05-.08. While any deaths are tragic, sleepy drivers, texting drivers, and those not wearing seatbelts are a more significant cause of death. In addition, 77% of the drunk driving deaths happened when the driver had a BAC above .12, so there is a question whether this bill will really lower deaths in Utah, where half the drivers don’t drink due to religious reasons anyway.
The NTSB feels that lowering the limit will cause fewer deaths all around. When word gets out that .05 is the new limit, fewer people will take the chance on “buzzed” driving. Police officers often can’t tell the difference between .05 and .08, so the lower limit is going to be harder to enforce. In a sample study, one person failed a sobriety test at .03, but passed it at .11! Apparently there is more subjectivity to a police sobriety test than we think, and some think that minorities will bear an undue burden of arrest.
The NTSB feels that simply publicity of a lower limit will cause drinkers to re-think about driving, lowering deaths, and think Utah could be a springboard for other states to adopt the lower limit. Businesses are concerned, especially “destination bars” that people won’t come, and there has been evidence of that happening in the Canadian province of British Columbia back in 2010. However, with Uber and other ride-sharing services, that has been mitigated somewhat. What do you think Utah should do? Do you think all states should adopt a lower limit for drunk driving?
I’m for the 0.05 limit, though I’m not convinced it makes all that much difference. I live in a state with strict seatbelt laws and laws against even holding electronic devices while driving, and I just don’t think lowering the limit to 0.05 is too much a burden to one’s liberty. But then, I don’t drink. I think the outrage comes from people in Utah who resent the influence of the LDS church in general. It seems to me that the bill allowing 18-year-olds to get concealed carry permits ought to be the one attracting outrage. Sheesh.
The outrage in Utah from non-LDS about liquor laws also always struck me as just resentment about the church’s influence. Growing up in PA I found the liquor laws were just as strict or stricter than Utah’s, so I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about when I got to Utah. It’s not the laws, but the perception that lawmakers kowtow to the church.
Maybe because of the tension over the Church’s influence in local politics, Utah is exactly the wrong state to spearhead this sort of move and it would be better to wait until it has gotten momentum elsewhere. Given just the statistics cited here, it also seems this may not be the hill to die on if we really care about saving the most lives.
Governor Herbert just signed the bill, which goes into effect Jan 1, 2018: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=43602833&nid=148
(First, full disclosure, I do not drink alcoholic beverages)
“The outrage in Utah from non-LDS about liquor laws also always struck me as just resentment about the church’s influence.”
Really? You don’t think people would complain or oppose this measure other than because of LDS church influence?
Perhaps. Or perhaps not. But I can imagine that it might make people resentful when laws are made by others with no experience in that particular area–(like it does me when men are writing and passing laws regarding women’s healthcare options).
Looking at it practically, if you are a woman and weigh 100 lbs.,. one glass of wine in an hour will put you at .05. (2 drinks for women 200 lbs and under) For a man weighing 160 lbs or less, 2 glasses of wine will put you at or above .05. Roughly every 40 minutes your blood alcohol level should decrease by .01.
I wonder if this will hurt tourism in Utah.
Yes, I am familiar with PA’s weird (long established) alcohol laws as well, such as where one can purchase a six-pack of beer for home consumption.
Crazy Utah. This week an 18 year old can now apply for and receive a concealed carry gun permit, and the legal blood alcohol limit is
This is the report from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) looking at the two limits. In England, Wales and Ireland we have the higher limit, Scotland have the lower limit.
I’ve wondered how long it would be until this happened ever since I saw the science on impairment.
Surprised it happened so soon.
A little history.
In 1920 a law was passed (US Constitutional Amendment 18) prohibiting the sale and distribution of alcohol after a decades long battle..All but 2 states voted yes.. Before then most alcoholic beverages were produced on an industrial scale, often in the midwest, St Louis and Milwaukee come to mind, or imported. But the consumption of alcohol didn’t stop. The production moved South and into the Appalachian mountains with production by many more small time bootleggers instead of a small number of big producers. Since the small producers tended to be testing their product all the time, the quality control was much worse. Methanol and lead/mercury poisoning became common. The illegal transportation of alcohol was a huge boost to organized crime..The government tax base shrank, especially during the Depression and previously alcohol taxes had been substantial The South was very happy with the status quo; preachers/church goers feeling like they were stamping out sin and the bootleggers making money and saving the local economy and the consumers getting alcohol cheaper..
In 1933 the law was repealed (US Constitutional Amendment 21). But not easily. Of the 48 states, 14 of them remained firm in a conviction to never repeal it. The 11 old confederate states remained true. A couple other states with large clandestine production of alcohol remained true. And of course Mormon Utah. So which state betrayed the cause and brought back alcohol? Utah of course. December 5, 1933. A day often celebrated in bars, taverns and other drinking establishments across the country. You can tell those boozy whiners in Utah that if it wasn’t for Utah they would not be able to buy any alcohol anywhere in the US at at all.
Heber J. Grant was furious. Perhaps not directly related, but about then was when the LDS church put the teeth into the Word of Wisdom. The consumption of the hot drinks of tea and coffee began to have serious consequences. David O McKay, a chocolate lover prevented that from being prohibited when mildly stimulating chemicals (theobromides) were discovered in it. J Golden Kimball, known to still be working on the Word of Wisdom on several fronts (alcohol and coffee) is reported to say, “hot soup will go next.” When your non-LDS friends inquire why you can’t drink dilute ice tea (a subtle social insult in the sultry summer heat in the South which only a damned ignorant Yankee would do), one correct answer is ” so you can drink alcohol.”
Many states and counties remained devoted to the cause of prohibition of alcohol. Local laws were passed to fill the gap. Even today there are many dry counties and others with laws making Sunday dry or otherwise regulating it. If the LDS church is influencing the liquor laws in Utah they are not doing a very vigorous or effective job of it, compared to other places.
Attached is a link of a map of the US indicating which counties are dry. Notice Utah does not have a single dry county. Disgraceful.