Press Release

Restaurant Association Urges Utah to Maintain .08% BAC Legal Limit

Washington, D.C.—Today Utah’s Interim Transportation Committee will hear a proposal from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) encouraging state lawmakers to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving from .08 to .05 percent. The American Beverage Institute (ABI), a restaurant trade association with over 8,000 members, criticized PIRE’s recommendation for targeting responsible moderate drinkers instead of the dangerous drunk drivers who pose the greatest threat to traffic safety.

Over 70 percent of drunk driving fatalities are caused by drivers with BACs of 0.15 or higher (consumption of 6-7 drinks), and the average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash is 0.16 percent—twice the current legal limit.

“It’s ridiculous to assume that moving to 0.05 and criminalizing perfectly responsible behavior will eliminate drunk driving fatalities,” said Sarah Longwell, Managing Director of ABI. “Utah already has very strict penalties for drunk driving and stringent restrictions on alcohol sales. Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. It would simply divert valuable public resources that should be used to pursue the most dangerous offenders and instead use them totarget drivers engaging in perfectly safe behavior.”

Out of the over 32,000 U.S. traffic fatalities in 2011 (the most recent year for data), less than one percent were caused by drivers between 0.05 and 0.08 percent BAC. Lowering the legal limit is unlikely to lower the fatality rate further: A study of South Australia after the state lowered its BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.05 found that the lower limit did not significantly affect the number of alcohol related fatalities. A study of Denmark’s 0.05 law did not find a decrease in alcohol-related crashes in the first year after the law was adopted, but did find an increase in the number of drivers who said they will not consume any alcohol to avoid violating the law.

To find out more reasons why .05 won’t eliminate drunk driving fatalities, view ABI’s fact sheet here:

Longwell concluded: “PIRE is just one of the latest anti-alcohol activist groups trying to expand the definition of ‘drunk’. A little over a decade ago, we lowered our legal limit from 0.1 percent after groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving promised a huge drop in fatalities. Yet the proportion of traffic fatalities caused by drunk drivers has remained the same for the past 15 years. Why would moving to .05 suddenly stop truly drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel? The fact is, it won’t.”