Op-eds

  • Op-ed: Tongue-in-cheek ad shows just how unreasonable .05 law is

    When I testified last month in front of the Interim Transportation Committee about the unintended consequences of Utah's new .05 BAC arrest law, I brought with me a large bar chart showing the relative crash risks for certain kinds of driving impairments based on government and university data. A driver is 13 times more likely to crash if he is speeding, five times more likely if he is on a hands-free cell phone and three times more likely if he's over the age of 65. A driver is more impaired in each of these situations than at .05 BAC — the [...]

  • Don’t ignore the 0.05 assault on women

    The “pussy hat” is a new cultural icon that first made an appearance in January at the Woman’s March and has since been present at a number of rallies and events that center around gender equality and female empowerment. But this surge of enthusiasm has been noticeably missing from a more clandestine attack on women. Three states — Utah, Hawaii, and Washington — all attempted to lower the blood-alcohol arrest level for driving from 0.08 to 0.05 in their most recent legislative sessions. Utah was the only state to sign the proposal into law, but others will likely follow in the [...]

  • COMMENTARY: Utah’s move to drop DUI level to .05 will make criminals out of social drinkers

    Utah has officially become the first state in the country to lower the blood-alcohol arrest level from .08 to .05, and more states will certainly follow. While such a move is unlikely to save lives, it will inflict serious damage on restaurants and others in the hospitality and tourism industries by criminalizing perfectly responsible behavior. Why would someone interested in a ski vacation choose Utah over Colorado or Montana if they fear being arrested for having a single drink after a day on the slopes before driving back to their hotel? Utah has a unique relationship with alcohol, namely that a majority [...]

  • My view: Lowering legal limit to .05 won’t save lives

    It’s déjà vu in Utah when it comes to the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit while driving. Like it was 34 years ago, Utah is at the forefront of the move to lower the BAC limit. The state Legislature passed a bill this week to lower it from .08 to .05 — the lowest level in the country. In 1983, Utah was the first state to lower its legal limit from .1 to .08; the other 49 states followed its lead in subsequent years. While Utah’s trailblazing on this issue is the same, the circumstances are different. There is no traffic safety [...]

  • Op-ed: Problems of lower alcohol limit are many, and the advantages are non-existent

    Pending Gov. Gary Herbert's signature, Utah will become the first state in the nation to lower its legal drunk driving threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 blood-alcohol content. Unfortunately, the new law is unlikely to save lives. However, it is sure to ruin some. A 120-pound woman can reach the 0.05 limit after little more than a single drink. Under the new law, if she drives, she can be arrested and subject to jail time, social stigma, thousands in fines and legal fees, increased insurance costs and the installation of an ignition interlock. Harsh consequences would be permissible if this woman were impaired at [...]

  • Lowering legal blood-alcohol content to .05 a waste of time

    Hawaii Sen. Josh Green is behind the latest attempt to criminalize the responsible consumption of alcohol. He recently introduced a bill in the state Legislature that attempts to lower the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit from .08 percent to .05 percent. Green claims that lowering the blood alcohol content will make a big difference in protecting people on the road, but it looks more like a political stunt. In reality, only about 1 percent of traffic fatalities involve a driver within the disputed BAC interval of .05 and .08. And 70 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities are caused by drivers with [...]

  • Commentary: The showdown for alcohol ads

    As the Patriots took on the Falcons in the epic showdown on Sunday, another battle brewed among advertisers as they tried to win the hearts and minds of the millions of television viewers. Last year companies spent a combined total of $380 million advertising during the Super Bowl — with a 30 second spot exceeding $5 million. As you can imagine, a portion of this massive advertising blitz includes alcohol commercials — which have been some of the most iconic advertisements in the history of the game. Who can forget the “Wasssup” Budweiser commercials? Or spots like “Puppy Love” or “Lost [...]

  • Op-ed: Lower alcohol limit won’t address the real safety problems

    Utah state Rep. Norman Thurston plans to introduce a bill in the legislative session that will slash the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit from .08 percent to .05 percent — which would make Utah the first and only state to have such a limit. Thurston claims the .05 proposal is "all about safety," but it looks more like it's all about raising his profile. Only about one percent of traffic fatalities involve drivers with a BAC within the disputed interval of 0.05 and 0.08. In contrast, high-BAC and repeat offenders cause 70 percent of alcohol-related fatalities. Legislators and traffic safety officials should [...]

  • The War on Moderation

    January marks the 98th anniversary of the ratification of the 18th Amendment, more commonly known as prohibition. While Prohibition is remembered as one of America’s greatest failed experiments, today we’re seeing something of a revival of prohibitionist thinking among the public health community who have begun to attack even moderate alcohol consumption in earnest. There is long-standing consensus about the negative health and social impacts of excessive alcohol consumption. But for decades there has also been widespread agreement about the health benefits from a regular glass or two of your favorite beer, wine or spirit. Studies tout that the moderate consumption of [...]

  • Dump Sobriety Checkpoints in Favor of Roving Patrols this Thanksgiving

    Every year during the holidays the same bad ideas seem to resurface: Talking politics with Uncle Fred, shopping on Black Friday, and putting up sobriety checkpoints to catch drunk drivers. Though the Thanksgiving holiday is typically one of the deadliest times to be on the road--approximately 400 traffic fatalities are expected this year--setting up police roadblocks intended to catch drunk drivers is an increasingly ineffective tactic. Dismal arrest rates tell the story. For example, a sobriety checkpoint in Ohio over Halloween weekend resulted in only 2 arrests, after stopping and inconveniencing over 480 drivers. Another sobriety checkpoint in California at the beginning [...]