Op-eds

  • 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 [...]

  • Gov. Jerry Brown should veto interlock bill

    On Thursday, the California State Assembly passed Senate Bill 1046, which would require all DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices (i.e. in-car breathalyzers) in their vehicles. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for approval. He should veto it and focus on priorities that would actually reduce the drunk driving threat instead. California law already requires the installation of an ignition interlock device for repeat DUI offenders and those convicted with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or above. This bill extends this mandate to first-time and low-BAC offenders. Proponents like Aaron Wade, program manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, [...]

  • Commentary: Re-think ineffective DUI checkpoints

    This weekend, millions of Americans will hit the road to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend. But some of those travelers may end up a statistic. New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that fatalities jumped by 7 percent in 2015 and fatalities due to distracted driving — like texting or applying makeup behind the wheel — skyrocketed by 9 percent. Drunken driving deaths, on the other hand, only increased by 3 percent, accounting for a lower proportion of overall fatalities than the previous year. The increase in alcohol-related fatalities can be attributed in part to the rise [...]

  • MADD-Backed Ignition Interlock Mandate Wrong for California

    After nearly a decade of activists working to pass a law mandating installation of ignition interlock devices (IID’s) in the cars of anyone convicted of a DUI, success appeared imminent — until a couple weeks ago. Senate Bill 1046 has been positively flying through the Assembly — enjoying the kind of unanimous support reserved for feel-good legislation pushed by a group no one wants to oppose. It’s almost as if Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and its allies in the Assembly hoped they could outrun the facts. But last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released its “Specific Deterrent Evaluation of the [...]