This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah legislators on March 8 voted to approve House Bill 155, a bill that would make Utah the first state to reduce the blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent. If signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, the legislation would become the most restrictive DUI law in the country and will have detrimental effects on Utah's restaurant industry, economy and reputation.
The Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association is highly committed to eliminating drunk driving and its harmful effects on society. However, given the implications of HB155, we strongly believe this is an ineffective and ill-conceived approach. We call upon Herbert to veto HB155.
According to the American Beverage Institute, the proposal would mean a 120-pound woman could feasibly get a DUI after a single drink.
HB155 also increases the risk of arrest for nondrinkers in Utah. Products such as mouthwash or breath spray can significantly increase breathalyzer results. Diabetes, acid reflux disease and even slight miscalibration of breathalyzers can lead to a 0.05 BAC reading. Lowering the limit unnecessarily penalizes those who aren't under the influence, punishes those who drink responsibly and draws scarce law enforcement resources away from finding and arresting truly impaired drivers who pose a real danger.
Reducing the limit will also increase dram shop insurance costs for restaurants, creating undue liability for owners. It would be nearly impossible for operators, who must rely on guests' behavior and appearance, to gauge overconsumption.
We are proud that the Legislature passed responsible alcohol policy in HB442, finally eliminating the ineffective "Zion Curtain." SLARA is glad to be rid of a stigma that has plagued Utah's reputation for a decade. We shudder to think that another negative "Zion" moniker will deter tourists, skiers and conventions from making Utah their chosen destination.
Utah currently has the lowest DUI rate in the United States. This law, by default, will negatively impact that statistic while not effectively addressing impaired driving.
Within the HB442 Zion Curtain legislation, Utah will increase funding from alcohol sales that will be directed to education to prevent underage and irresponsible alcohol consumption. This, along with tougher penalties for 0.15-plus BAC drivers, is a much more effective approach to reducing the DUI injuries and deaths.
Drunk driving is a serious issue that demands action, but HB155 is not the way to ensure our roads are safer. Instead, it unduly harms Utahns.
Michele T. Corigliano is executive director of Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association. This op-ed represents the view of the association's board of directors.