Utah’s new 0.05 BAC law will criminalize moderate and responsible social drinking at bars and restaurants; will do little to save lives

Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2018)—At the end of the month, Utah is set to become the first state in the country to officially lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05—a level that can be reached by some after consuming little more than a single drink. The implementation comes after a heated legislative battle that took place in the state to initially pass the .05 legislation in 2017, as well as efforts to repeal the law in early 2018. During this time, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) mounted major resistance to the policy.

With the official adoption of 0.05 in Utah, it’s likely policymakers in other states will attempt to push similar .05 proposals in 2019—an effort that ABI is prepared to strongly oppose. In recent years, .05 legislation has been brought up in Washington, Hawaii, New York and Delaware. These efforts gained little traction.

Jackson Shedelbower, communications director of the American Beverage Institute, released the following statement:

I have no doubt that proponents of .05 laws are well intentioned, but good intentions don’t necessarily yield good public policy. It’s easy to comprehend why Utah was the first to jump on .05. Many Utahns entirely refrain from alcohol consumption for religious reasons and, therefore, lack a full understanding of its effects—notably that impairment at 0.05 BAC, or after one or two drinks, is not meaningful and shouldn’t become the basis of major legal consequences.

Instead of targeting moderate and responsible drinkers, as this .05 law does, limited traffic safety resources should be focused on the high-BAC and repeat drunk driving offenders responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. That way, the roads actually become safer and those who enjoy a drink or two over dinner before driving are not labeled criminals. Everyone wants to save lives, but lowering the legal limit to .05 is not the answer. Hopefully, other states take into account the nuances around traffic safety policy and the consumer repercussions of such a low legal limit before blindly following in Utah’s footsteps.

In Depth on the Issue

Lowering the Blood-Alcohol Arrest Level

ABI strongly opposes lowering the blood-alcohol arrest level. The move is an attack on the restaurant and hospitality industries and converts their responsible patrons into criminals. Don’t allow your state legislature or municipality to be fooled by a false narrative linking a lower BAC arrest threshold with increased traffic safety.
More on Lowering the Blood-Alcohol Arrest Level →

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