FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2022
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / email@example.com / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on New Government Evaluation Confirming Utah’s .05 Percent Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Law Deters Drunk Driving and Saves Lives
Crashes and fatalities dropped, the number of impaired driving arrests remained stable, and Utah’s tourism and hospitality industries continued to grow.
A new study released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides convincing and compelling evidence that lowering the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from .08 to .05 percent reduces motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and our public health and safety partners have long supported .05 percent BAC laws which are backed by research and international experience. With traffic fatalities skyrocketing since the pandemic with impaired driving as a major contributing factor, advancement of proven countermeasures such as .05 percent BAC laws is urgently needed.
According to the study, Utah, the first state in the U.S. to enact a .05 percent BAC limit, experienced a nearly 20 percent drop in traffic fatalities in 2019 (248), the first year that the law was in effect, compared to 2016 (281), the last year before the law was enacted. This improvement in roadway safety occurred despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and outpaced neighboring states as well as the nation as a whole.
While members of the hospitality industry, including the American Beverage Institute (ABI), fiercely opposed the new law claiming it would negatively impact the economy among other assertions, the NHTSA study found no such detrimental consequences as a result of the lower BAC while driving limit. To the contrary, state revenues from taxes related to the hospitality industry continued to rise, and tourism increased. Additionally, the predicted sharp increase in driving under the influence (DUI) arrests did not occur, again contrary to fear-inducing tactics by members of the hospitality industry including an aggressive ad campaign of “Come for vacation, leave on probation.” The study outcomes provide a strong rebuttal to these baseless arguments made by opponents of lower BAC laws.
On average, one person dies in an alcohol-impaired driving crash every 52 minutes in the U.S., and drunk driving remains the largest single contributor to road fatalities. It is estimated that our nation would experience an 11 percent decline in fatal alcohol-related crashes, saving nearly 1,800 lives annually if all states adopted a .05 percent BAC or lower law. We commend the tremendous leadership of Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R, 2009 – 2021) and state legislators Rep. Norm Thurston (R) and Sen. J. Stuart Adams (R) as well as NHTSA and its new study, which is a resounding affirmation of the efficacy of .05 percent BAC laws. Every state should follow Utah’s lead and act on this lifesaving improvement with urgency.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.