The National Highway Transportation Board (NTSB) is encouraging all states in the U.S. to change the threshold of drunk driving from .08 to .05. Back in 1983, Utah was the first state to drop the limit from .10 to .08, which became a nationwide federal mandate in 2000. The NTSB wants Utah to be first in the nation again, in hopes that other states will follow suit, but some are pushing back on the proposal.
The LDS Church has taken no formal position on the bill. Many non-LDS see this as an LDS attempt to further marginalize people who drink alcohol. In yesterday’s Radio West program, Doug Fabrizio discusses pros and cons of the proposal. It was noted that many countries have already seen a drop in drunk driving, and even in Europe with a much larger drinking culture, many nations have Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) as low as .02. Some note that public transportation is much better in Europe. Australia and Canada seem to have a similar driving culture as the United States has a BAC limit of .05. The NTSB would like to follow the pattern of these other countries and feels there will be a drastic reduction in drunk driving deaths as a result.
Some Utah legislators noted that there were just 6 deaths in Utah in 2013 (the last year in which data is available) where the driver had a BAC content between .05-.08. While any deaths are tragic, sleepy drivers, texting drivers, and those not wearing seatbelts are a more significant cause of death. In addition, 77% of the drunk driving deaths happened when the driver had a BAC above .12, so there is a question whether this bill will really lower deaths in Utah, where half the drivers don’t drink due to religious reasons anyway.
The NTSB feels that lowering the limit will cause fewer deaths all around. When word gets out that .05 is the new limit, fewer people will take the chance on “buzzed” driving. Police officers often can’t tell the difference between .05 and .08, so the lower limit is going to be harder to enforce. In a sample study, one person failed a sobriety test at .03, but passed it at .11! Apparently there is more subjectivity to a police sobriety test than we think, and some think that minorities will bear an undue burden of arrest.
The NTSB feels that simply publicity of a lower limit will cause drinkers to re-think about driving, lowering deaths, and think Utah could be a springboard for other states to adopt the lower limit. Businesses are concerned, especially “destination bars” that people won’t come, and there has been evidence of that happening in the Canadian province of British Columbia back in 2010. However, with Uber and other ride-sharing services, that has been mitigated somewhat. What do you think Utah should do?