The Utah legislature passed a law Wednesday lowering the legal BAC limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05, reports AP and others. Gov. Gary Herbert has expressed support for the measure. Other supporters of the Utah legislation claim it will save lives and make the argument that impairment “begins with the first drink,” as we’ve reported. The American Beverage Institute’s (ABI) Sarah Longwell pointed out that over 3/4 of alcohol-related highway deaths, in UT and elsewhere, involve drivers with BACs of 0.15 and above. A BAC limit of 0.05, ABI also argues, punishes responsible drinkers and will “do almost nothing in the effort to reduce traffic fatalities,” as less than 1% of fatalities involve drivers between 0.05 and 0.08, ABI’s Rick Berman pointed out in an op-ed published by Washington Times on Feb 28. Longwell and Berman also note that a 150-lb male reaches 0.05 at two beers, a 120-lb female could be there after a single drink. A 0.05 bill “recently died” in Hawaii, but Washington’s bill remains alive, reports Chicago Tribune.
Meanwhile, some local government officials in England and Wales are advocating to reduce legal BACs there to 0.05, following Scotland’s adoption of the lower limit. In a more colorful way of describing how quickly drinkers reach the lower limit, Scottish Daily Mail columnist Richard Little John commented that 0.05 is “about a pint of shandy or the sniff of a barmaid’s apron.” Little John also echoed ABI’s position that the lower limit “will do virtually nothing to save lives,” making the same 1% point. While “police claim the new law is working,” he adds, “the economic consequences have been catastrophic” on bars, claiming a near two-thirds reduction in business. If the true aim is zero tolerance, as Little John (and many others) suspect, that should be the demand.