Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Utah Representative Steve Handy told Brian Mullahy of KUTV Channel 2 that he regretted voting for the bill that lowered the drunk driving arrest threshold from .08 to .05. When asked if he would vote differently if given the opportunity, Rep. Handy responded: “If I had to do it over again I would probably vote no.” Handy goes on to say, “the penalties are probably incorrect. The penalties are maybe a little bit stiff.” He then added, “The Governor came very close to vetoing the bill and maybe he should have.”
Rep. Handy is not alone. A Utah Policy poll found that a majority of Utahns oppose the law and a petition circulated by the American Beverage Institute calling for the repeal of the law has garnered over 15,000 signatures.
Rep. Handy’s statements came the same day that the American Beverage Institute announced its latest full-page ad running in the Salt Lake Tribune. The ad, running Thursday, pictures several Utah legislators, including Governor Gary Herbert, who are all over the age of 65 and asks a rhetorical question: “Too Impaired to Drive?” The ad goes on to note that studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have found that you’re more impaired driving over the age of 65 than you are driving at the new .05 BAC arrest level. Some have (perhaps willfully) interpreted the ad to mean that those over 65 shouldn’t drive. But the ad is making the exact opposite point. Of course people over 65 should still be able to drive (assuming they are passing the necessary health requirements). The ad is meant to demonstrate just how unreasonable the new .05 limit is and put impairment levels into context.
For those legislators over 65 who have responded by saying they are great drivers—we agree! ABI does not believe those over 65 shouldn’t be able to drive any more than we think someone at .05 BAC should go to jail. It’s not an attack on older drivers, it’s an attack on the failed logic that led the legislature to pass this terrible .05 law. By using extremely low levels of impairment as their reason for passing this law, it’s the Utah legislature who believes that people over 65 shouldn’t be able to drive. You’re more impaired driving talking on a hands-free cell phone than you are driving at the federal legal limit of .08 BAC. Will the Utah legislature put people in jail for talking on their blue-tooth?
ABI applauds Representative Steve Handy and hopes other legislators will join him in rethinking their support for the law.