American Beverage Institute: Come to Utah for vacation, leave on probation

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The American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant group feels the tourism industry is getting hurt in not allowing visitors to drink more than 2 beers and driving a car. The limit for drinking and driving as of January 1, 2019, will be a strict .05 in the US State of Utah.

The American Beverage Institute knows drinking is big business and in 2018 already went against lowering the limit to .08  for drunk driving.  In 2017,  the Institute took out newspaper ads in Utah, neighboring states and in USA Today, featuring a fake mugshot under a large headline reading, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”

Earlier this month 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.

New Year’s Eve revelers in Utah could find themselves with more than a hangover as 2019 dawns. If they drink and drive, they could end up on the wrong side of the nation’s newest and lowest DUI threshold.

The 0.05 percent limit goes into effect Sunday, despite protests that it will punish responsible drinkers and hurt the state’s tourism industry by adding to the reputation that the predominantly Mormon state is unfriendly to those who drink alcohol. The state’s old limit was 0.08 percent, the threshold in most states.

For Utah lawmakers, the change is a safety measure aimed at encouraging people not to drive at all if they’ve been drinking.

The change was easily approved in 2017 by the Legislature, which is mostly Mormon and mostly Republican, and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.

The change means that depending on things such as food intake, a 150-pound man could be over the 0.05 limit after two beers in an hour, while a 120-pound woman could exceed it after a single drink in that time, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The National Transportation Safety Board also backs the change, and many in the hospitality industry worry that other states will follow suit. Utah was among the first to adopt the now-standard 0.08 threshold decades ago, and lawmakers in four states — Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, and New York — have floated measures to lower their DUI limit in recent years. None has passed.