Utah could soon have the lowest blood alcohol content limit in the country after the state’s lawmakers voted to lower the threshold for driving to 0.05 percent.
Currently in California, as well as the rest of the country, the legal blood alcohol limit that a person can have in their system is less than 0.08 percent.
In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted to recommend that states lower their blood alcohol limits to 0.05 percent and cited studies that have shown that impairment can occur with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. And now it seems as though Utah has taken up their recommendation.
The new law, which was sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston, was advanced on the proposition that a lower blood alcohol content could lower incidences of drunk driving.
“The .08 sends a false message … it’s kind of a game — how much can I drink and still stay under the .08?" said Rep. Kelly Miles. “So this will benefit those because now the message is, ‘I shouldn’t drink anything and drive.’ This will send a message to the nation, but I think the message is ‘you are welcome to come here to Utah, you are welcome to drink, but then please make arrangements for a ride.”
Not all of Utah’s lawmakers were on board.
“I don’t think there’s enough data out there that would suggest that lowering the limit would reduce alcohol-related traffic fatalities,” said Rep. Gage Froerer, noting that texting while driving and distracted driving resulted in more deaths than drunk driving. “No one can dispute the validity of not drinking and driving — that’s a given. But the question comes down to personal freedoms, rights and enforcement. Our efforts are better spent on education and informing the public.”
The change in law begs the question, “How many drinks does it take to get to a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent?”
The California DMV provides very general chart of for guidance on how many drinks it takes to get to certain blood alcohol contents. I emphasize that the chart is only for guidance. A number of factors will affect how many drinks will get a person to 0.8 and 0.05.
A 160-pound male who has two drinks in an hour will have a blood alcohol content around 0.07 to 0.08 percent. One drink will put the same 160-pound male between 0.04 and 0.05 percent.
A 140-pound female who has two drinks in an hour will have a blood alcohol content around 0.09 percent. One drink will put the same 140-pound female around 0.05 percent.
Across the chart, the difference between getting a DUI in Utah, if the law is passed, and the rest of the country including California is about one drink in an hour. And no, it does not matter what type of drink it is. 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, 12 ounces of 5% beer, and 5 ounces of 12% wine all have about the same amount of alcohol and all count as one drink.
If Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, signs the bill, the new law would take effect on December 20, 2018. Just in time for the New Year’s celebrations.