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Study looks at impact of Utah's strict drunk driving law

Posted at 1:30 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 15:30:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s move to lower the legal blood alcohol content for drivers appears to be making a difference on the state’s roads.

In 2017, Utah lawmakers passed legislation that lowered the legal B.A.C. from .08% to .05% and the law took effect on December 30, 2018.

A study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration since then found Utah’s fatal crash rate saw a large decrease in 2019. Comparing statistics from 2016 with 2019, the study found the fatal crash rate fell 19.8%. That rate is determined by measuring the number of fatal crashes against miles traveled on Utah roads.

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“There is zero tolerance for impaired driving,” said Sgt. Cameron Roden with Utah Highway Patrol.  “This law is meant to encourage people to make the right decision.”

The study also found that 22% of people who drink alcohol changed their behavior due to the law.  Many reported the law inspired them to arrange for sober drivers if they go out and consume alcohol.

“Impairment can start with that very first drink,” Sgt. Roden said.  “That can impair someone's judgment and ability to make decisions.”

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The NHTSA will share the study with other states contemplating legislation to lower the legal B.A.C.

While U.H.P. found the results encouraging, their goal is to eliminate all crashes caused by drunk or impaired drivers.

“We just want people to make better decisions so that they plan ahead when they go out and decide to have an alcoholic beverage,” Sgt. Roden said.

The entire study can be found here: Evaluation of Utah’s .05 BAC Per Se Law (