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Utah set to establish nation's lowest threshold for drunk driving

The state, which is 60 percent Mormon, has long tried to curb drinking and driving


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Taylor Link
March 14, 2017 2:08AM (UTC)

Utah will soon become the first state to lower the maximum legal blood-alcohol content for drivers to 0.05 percent. Lawmakers in the state passed legislation last week that would lower the limit from 0.08 percent, the level that all 50 states currently observe.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called on states to review drunk driving policies. The Utah bill is expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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“The time was long overdue for this,” said state Rep. Norman Thurston, a Republican who advocated for the legislation. “This is about behavior and we hope that other states take a close look and move in a similar direction.”

Utah has always had a unique relationship with alcohol, as Mormons make up 60 percent of the state population and typically refrain from drinking alcohol.

The NTSB has urged states to lower the threshold for drunk driving citing a 2013 study in Australia, which found that fatal crashes decreased 18 percent in Queensland and 8 percent in New South Wales after those Australian provinces lowered their blood-alcohol limits.

In Utah, deaths related to drunk driving have nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014. However, nationwide, drunk driving fatalities have fallen by about a third in the past three decades, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationally, 28 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the agency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 percent — which is about three drinks in one hour for a 160-pound man — causes altered coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects and difficulty steering a motor vehicle.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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