Utah Celebrates the New Year as Reduced BAC Limit Officially Goes into Effect

Just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve, Utah’s reduced BAC limit officially went into effect Sunday, but surprisingly did not result in an uptick of DUI arrests.

Drinking holiday

Photo by: BluEyedA73

New Year’s Eve is known for being a holiday that many spend intoxicated, whether through pounding beers with friends or sipping champagne at a party as the countdown to the New Year befalls. This holiday is so widely centered on alcohol that organizations such as AAA was offering those who were inebriated a free ride home for them and their vehicle in order to help reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road after midnight. Utah had its own way of getting ready for the holiday however, as the new reduced BAC limit went into effect a day prior to the festivities.

Utah’s reduced BAC limit

Utah’s new reduced BAC limit, or the legal limit of blood-alcohol content for drivers in Utah was set into motion in early 2017, amid protests from residents and businesses. Regardless of the backlash from the community, Utah lawmakers passed the new BAC limit with it going into effect December 30, 2018. Utah Code 41-6a-502 now states “A person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state if the person:

(a) Has sufficient alcohol in the person’s body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .05 grams or greater at the time of the test;

(b) Is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle; or

(c) Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .05 grams or greater at the time of operation or actual physical control.”

Prior to the legal change of the allowable blood-alcohol content, Utah’s limits matched those around the county set at .08 grams. Now Utah has one of the lowest tolerances for alcohol use before driving than any other in the country.

When is “one too many”?

Photo by: Jeffrey Smith

While everyone can agree that drunk driving is a dangerous activity that kills hundreds of people each year, many Utah residents still scoff at the reduced BAC limit. Many of those who are upset at the new law are those who would like to legally enjoy a couple drinks with dinner or after work without worrying about finding a designated driver. One problem with the occasional social drink however, is the drastic difference in how it could affect each individual person and whether it could lead to “one too many” drinks before hitting the road. One shot of whiskey or a single glass of wine may have been okay for some without their BAC rising about .08. Others though become incapable of merely walking a straight line to their car, their BAC increased to a limit too dangerous to drive. Factors such as gender, weight, and stomach contents come into play which can dramatically change who gets buzzed and who doesn’t.

Taking no chances

In its own obnoxious way, Utah’s reduced BAC limit may be beneficial as it makes everyone a little more cautious before hitting the roads. Instead of Utah residents wondering if that glass of champagne went straight to their head or not, anyone who drinks can just assume they may come up over the new reduced BAC limit and plan accordingly. After mere hours after being put into effect, this way of further separating drinking from driving might already be working. Only 11 DUI related arrests were reported by UHP during New Year’s Eve this year compared to nearly 50 last year. Perhaps this increased intolerance can help further lower the number of Utahans killed each year by those who should not have been behind the wheel. For those who feel they have been treated unfairly according to this new law, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss options moving forward.


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