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Reducing Utah's BAC may up DUI charges, but not lower fatalities

Ever since the National Transportation Safety Board made its recommendation that all 50 states lower their legal blood alcohol limit to .05 in May, there has been debate here in Utah as to whether the legislature is ready to tackle the issue. The current limit in our state is .08 as it is in most states around the country. The debate centers on whether lowering the limit will do nothing more than increase the number of DUI charges and not decrease fatalities as is espoused by proponents of the reduction.

People and organizations such as the American Beverage Institute argue that the majority of drivers that cause fatal accidents are more often than not at least two times over the legal limit at the time of the accident. One estimate indicates that in nearly 70 of all fatal accidents involving alcohol, the drunk driver's blood alcohol content is .15 or higher. If this statistic can be trusted, reducing the legal limit may have little to no effect on drunk driving fatalities.

What the reduction to .05 may do is unnecessarily burden the criminal justice system with drivers who were drinking responsibly by not getting drunk before getting behind the wheel of their cars. Having a glass or two of wine with dinner does not generally mean an arrest at present, but with a reduced legal limit, it might. Using data from 2011, less than one percent of the drivers involved in the 32,000 fatalities that year had a blood alcohol level that ranged from .05 to .08.

While Utah legislators ponder whether to introduce legislation to lower the legal limit, there are still many drivers that face DUI charges in the state. Those drivers are entitled to present a defense against those charges. Having a general understanding of the state's drunk driving laws could help determine the best course of action for someone accused of drinking and driving.

Source:, Debate over lowering blood-alcohol driving limit hits Utah's Capitol Hill, Jason Lee, Oct. 16, 2013

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