Boycott Utah Over .05 Alcohol DUI Limit? Now Hold On There!

should idahoans boycott utah over .05 limit“Come for vacation, leave on probation,” reads the full-page ad in the Idaho Statesman newspaper. “As little as one drink with dinner before driving home could possibly land you in jail.”

The kicker: Time for Idahoans to rethink their vacation plans!

The American Beverage Institute, a lobbying group for the alcohol industry, is encouraging Idahoans not to take their vacations in Utah. It seems strange that a body working to sell more drinks would want people to boycott Utah drink vendors, but Utah is in a unique position: it’s the only state to have passed a law making a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 the legal limit for intoxication. All other states have .08 as the limit.

Of course, a lot of people in the hospitality industry are against the law. Alcohol sales are crucial to restaurant profits, and ski and waterfront resorts rely heavily on alcohol sales because the margins are so generous compared with other offerings.

But suggesting that Idahoans – and Montanans and Coloradans – boycott Utah seems to be punishing those very vendors. The idea is that the dearth of business will force Utah’s legislators to reconsider, and perhaps they will: the Governor is calling a special session to deal with the “unintended consequences” of the law. It might even be delayed another year. Presumably those unintended consequences lobbyists who fire up the outrage of vacationing Idahoan

No, the .05 Limit Won’t Mean Zillions of DUI Arrests

The picture that the ABI and other opponents paint is a place where legions of innocent diners sip a glass of wine with dinner, get pulled over, and find their lives changed by a DUI charge. It’s not going to be that way, for a couple of reasons:

  • Utah already has a DUI law that goes by impairment, not BAC. So if you’re clearly driving poorly and have a BAC of .03, you can be charged with impaired driving. Your BAC doesn’t have to exceed the limit. Most states have such laws.
  • The Utah Department of Public Safety doesn’t expect a big increase in DUI arrests: Utah doesn’t have the resources to arrest and try all those offenders.

What Will Change With Utah’s .05 Limit

Two things will happen because of the law, though:

  • There will be some more convictions for DUI in cases that would formerly be pled down to a lesser charge, and
  • People will be more careful about drinking before driving.

We don’t think anyone will boycott Utah for vacations. For one thing, the state has too many breathtaking attractions. They’ll ignore the noise and continue to hike in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and ski in Park City.  And when they’re done, they’ll settle on a designated driver for after dinner. See, that’s not so hard, is it?