By Tom James
(Reuters) – Utah Governor Gary Herbert on Thursday signed a law setting the blood alcohol limit for drunken driving at 0.05, the lowest threshold in the United States, over strong objections from the restaurant and beverage industry.
The proposal lowers the predominantly Mormon state’s blood-alcohol limit from 0.08, currently the standard across all U.S. states, to 0.05 as of Dec. 31, 2018, to try to improve road safety in the state.
“I signed (the bill) into law to help strengthen Utah’s impaired driving laws and to reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths on our roads,” Herbert said in a statement Thursday.
Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, said her organization and other industry groups opposed the measure and see it as likely to hurt the hospitality industry in the state.
“It will be punishing those people who drink responsibly, and go out and enjoy an evening,” Sine said.
The American Beverage Institute, a lobbying group, which had previously taken out ads advocating against the measure in newspapers in the state, earlier condemned Herbert’s plan to sign the bill.
Herbert also said he would call a special legislative session to address the “unintended and collateral consequences” of the law, and to help “modify and improve it.”
The National Transportation Safety Board has advocated for a national 0.05 limit, and its representatives testified twice in support of the Utah bill before the legislature, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The board said studies show that impairment starts after one drink, even at blood-alcohol levels as low as 0.04, the limit for commercial truck drivers nationwide.
(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)