The Utah legislature is considering a bill that would lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05, KUTV’s Rod Decker is reporting. It was inevitable that Utah would be among the first states to consider the change once the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced last May it was recommending a .05 BAC legal limit. Utah legislators are always quick to act whenever it allows them to appear more moral than their peers. With NTSB’s endorsement, Utah may not pass the law this legislative session, but you can bet that in the coming years it will happen.
Even though the change may be inevitable, that does not mean it is good policy. To borrow a term from economics, this is not the “lowest hanging fruit.” Utah consistently ranks among the bottom states in per capita DUI fatalities. To promote driving safety, Utah would have better results if it attacked other unsafe driving practices first: speeding, drowsy driving, or cell phone use. Every time a police officers pulls over a motorist, their attention is diverted away from policing anyone else. If officers start using resources to arrest someone with a BAC between .05 and .08 (the current legal limit), they may be missing out on a more serious offender. We have likely reached the point of diminishing returns where each incremental increase in DUI laws no longer yields a significant improvement in driver safety.