Some states profess to be on the forefront of anti-drunk driving legislation. Others are happy to adopt the trends or ignore them. But few states can say they really blaze a trail in the American anti-DUI movement.
Utah just leapt ahead. Their governor just signed House Bill 155, which lowers the Utah alcohol limit – the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for intoxication – from .08 to .05.
That’s a big change. Some people will be able to drink very little and still find themselves under the .05 limit. A 100-pound person, for example, could easily reach that level after one drink, and would surely be well over the limit with two. You’d have to be a fairly large or alcohol-tolerant person to stay under the limit with more than two drinks.
Of course, no one forces a person to drive right after having one or two drinks. Allowing enough time for the alcohol to leave the system takes care of the legal problem too.
Some questions remain now that the .05 limit is law. One question is: was the change in the Utah alcohol limit a step in the right direction, or just another weird Utah alcohol law?
Utah: Land of Strange Liquor Laws
Due to the dominance of Mormonism in local culture, Utah is home to more unusual liquor laws than any other state. Some of the unique prohibitions found in Utah:
- Bartending is out of sight: you’re not allowed to watch drinks being mixed. Bartenders must step behind some kind of screen or partition – the famous Zion curtain.
- Beers on tap must not be above 4 percent alcohol.
- Liquor must be measured out using strictly metered equipment so that no shot exceeds. 1.5 ounces.
- Restaurants serve alcohol, but diners can’t request booze until after they order their food.
- Beer cannot be sold by the keg.
- Bar licenses are rationed. They are issued in proportion to the population, so there is a chronic shortage.
To this list we can now add the .05 limit. However, though it might be unique in the US, it is hardly unusual worldwide. Most countries around the world have legal BAC limits below .08.
The big question, of course, is whether or not the new Utah alcohol limit will bring about less drunk driving. Utah already has fewer drunk drivers than other states, thanks to the LDS influence. While lowering the legal limit to .08 did have an effect on alcohol-related road deaths, it’s not certain that the new, even lower limit will have the same effect. Utah has generally good ignition interlock and DUI laws, so the lower limit might seem to be the next logical step.
Whether other states will follow is uncertain, however. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is not in any hurry to press for a lower limit: their priority is better ignition interlock laws, sobriety checkpoints, and no-refusal laws.
So for the near future, Utah will probably remain alone on the cutting edge of this particular movement. It will be worthwhile to see if the state reaps any benefits from the change. If so, then other states might start to follow. Though we’re not holding our breath.