Utah to use na­tion’s low­est DUI limit

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Lind­say White­hurst

SALT LAKE CITY — New Year’s Eve rev­el­ers in Utah could find them­selves with more than a han­gover as 2019 dawns. If they drink and drive, they could end up on the wrong side of the na­tion’s new­est and low­est DUI thresh­old.

The 0.05 per­cent limit goes into ef­fect Sun­day, de­spite protests that it will pun­ish re­spon­si­ble drinkers and hurt the state’s tourism in­dus­try by adding to the rep­u­ta­tion that the pre­dom­i­nantly Mor­mon state is un­friendly to those who drink al­co­hol.

The state’s old limit was 0.08 per­cent.

For Utah law­mak­ers, the change is a safety mea­sure aimed at en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple not to drive at all if they’ve been drink­ing.

The change was eas­ily ap­proved in 2017 by the leg­is­la­ture, which is mostly Mor­mon and mostly Repub­li­can, and signed into law by Gov. Gary Her­bert, also a Repub­li­can and mem­ber of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints.

The reli­gion teaches its mem­bers to ab­stain from drink­ing al­co­hol.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple na­tion­wide think that if a per­son has been drink­ing they shouldn’t be driv­ing,” said Repub­li­can Rep. Norm Thurston, who spon­sored the mea­sure.

The change means that depend­ing on things such as food in­take, a 150-pound man could be over the 0.05 limit af­ter two beers in an hour, while a 120-pound woman could ex­ceed it af­ter a sin­gle drink in that time, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Many in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try worry that other states will fol­low suit.

Utah was among the first to adopt the now-stan­dard 0.08 thresh­old decades ago, and law­mak­ers in Washington, Hawaii, Delaware and New York have floated mea­sures to lower their DUI limit in re­cent years. But none has passed.

RICK BOWMER/AP

Rob Wheat­ley drinks a beer at a Salt Lake City pub. The low­est DUI thresh­old takes ef­fect this week­end in Utah.

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