Utah’s new 0.05 BAC DUI law to go into effect December 30

From Fox News:

Utah is set to implement the strictest DUI law in the nation – just in time for New Year’s.

The new law, which takes effect on Dec. 30, lowers the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to .05 from .08 – the national limit imposed by former President Bill Clinton…

The state legislature approved the change in 2017 before it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

“That’s the mandate to law enforcement: You see someone driving impaired, you pull them over,” Herbert said earlier this year. “We’re not saying people can’t drink. You can certainly drink, and you can drink until your eyes bug out if you want. We’re just saying don’t’ drive and drink.”

A BAC of .05 percent typically results in about three alcoholic drinks for a 160-pound man, according to the CDC. Effects can include lowered alertness, exaggerated behavior and a “usually good feeling,” the CDC said. As for driving, people with a .05 percent BAC could have reduced coordination or difficulty steering…

Already, Utah has seen an uptick in people relying on ride-share programs, according to Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Mark Zesiger. He told The Salt Lake Tribune many people didn’t realize the law had a delayed implementation and assumed it went into effect immediately after the state legislature approved it.

“Our DUI squad definitely saw right after the law was passed an increase in the number of people who were using ride-share programs,” Zesiger said. “That’s a good thing; we’ll take that.”

Law enforcement officials are instructed to “make arrests based on observed impairment” rather than a “predetermined BAC level,” according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Zesiger said all officers have been retrained in field sobriety “to make sure … they do meets standards.”

Read the entire story here:  https://www.foxnews.com/us/utahs-new-dui-law-strictest-in-the-nation-set-to-be-implemented-ahead-of-new-years-eve

Colts coach, former player Mathis arrested for DUI with 0.05 BAC

Current Indianapolis Colts coach (and former player) Robert Mathis was arrested for DUI, despite having a BAC of 0.052.

There is a common misperception that a person cannot be charged or found guilty of DUI if he or she tests under the “legal limit” of 0.08.  As this arrests, demonstrates, that is not correct.

In Illinois, a person can be found guilty of DUI if the evidence shows that the person has consumed any amount of alcohol, so that his or her “mental or physical faculties are so impaired as to reduce his ability to think and act with ordinary care.” (Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal 23.29).

Under Illinois law, there are the following presumptions that apply to a breath or blood test result (625 ILCS 5/11-501.2(b)):

1. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration of 0.05 or less, it shall be presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcohol.
2. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, such facts shall not give rise to any presumption that the person was or was not under the influence of alcohol, but such fact may be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether the person was under the influence of alcohol.
3. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, it shall be presumed that the person was under the influence of alcohol.

This means that it is possible to be found guilty with a BAC less than 0.08, especially if it is above 0.05.  In fact, just the other day I was at the Markham courthouse and I observed a Judge find a defendant guilty in a case with a 0.062 BAC.

From the Indianapolis Star:

Indianapolis Colts assistant coach and former defensive lineman Robert Mathis tested below the legal threshold but was still arrested on a preliminary charge of drunken driving Tuesday.

A breath test showed Mathis was driving with a 0.052 percent blood-alcohol level when he was pulled over shortly after midnight in a neighborhood south of 106th Street.

“That reading combined with other factors led officers to believe he was impaired and not safe to operate a vehicle,” Carmel Police Sgt. D.J. Schoeff said.

In Indiana, a driver is presumed drunk at 0.08 percent,  but officers can arrest someone with a lower blood-alcohol level under some circumstances.

Mathis, 36, was booked into the Hamilton County Jail Tuesday morning on an initial charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, records show. He was later released.

Mathis, according to a Carmel police news release, was traveling the wrong way on a one-way street and failed to use a turn signal near Bishop Circle and Windemere Boulevard, which is close to 106th Street and Towne Road. An officer arrested Mathis at 12:09 a.m.

He was booked into the jail at 3:30 a.m. and released without posting a bond at 8:41 a.m. An initial hearing was scheduled for Nov. 8.

Mathis was added to the Colts coaching staff as a pass rush consultant in September after working in an unofficial role for a few months. Mathis, a lifelong Colt, was drafted in 2003 and went on to rack up 123 sacks over 13 seasons.

IL Drunk Driving Fatalities down 43% in the 20 yrs since legal limit was lowered

According to this story in the Morris Herald, drunk driving related fatalities have dropped from 534 to 300, a decrease of 43%, since Illinois lowered its legal limit from 0.10 BAC to 0.08.

What the story doesn’t mention, is that during those years, Illinois has also made a great many changes to its drunk driving laws, greatly increasing the penalties for repeat drunk driving and requiring ignition interlocks for even first time offenders.  In addition, local municipalities began to impound (and sometimes forfeit) vehicles used in drunk driving and driving while suspended or revoked due to DUI cases.  Oftentimes, the impoundment fee alone is equivalent to several months car payments.

In addition to that, in the interim 20 years, there have been many social changes that have probably contributed to this drop, such as an increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, a dramatic decrease in bars and drinking establishments, and a general increase in healthier lifestyles.

Having said that, I am sure that the drop to 0.08 made a significant difference.  It probably meant that many people passed on that extra drink or two that they might have had in 1996.  And that extra drink or two can make all the difference.

What do you think?

 

Utah lowers DUI legal limit to 0.05

Utah is about to become the first state in the nation to lower its DUI “legal limit” to 0.05 BAC, which would put it in line with most other countries and the NTSB’s 2013 recommendation.

The Utah legislature passed the law this week and the Governor is expected to sign it.

Utah has never been an alcohol friendly state, so it is not surprising that it is the first state to pass this type of legislation.  I suspect that other states will follow its lead, but it may take a while. On the other hand,  I do not expect the current Congress to force the states to lower their limit by conditioning receipt of Federal highway funds on doing so (as it did previously to get the states to lower their BAC limits to 0.08 and raise drinking ages to 21).

Going to a 0.05 standard is getting very close to a zero tolerance, “don’t drink and drive” standard, as opposed to our current tolerance for some alcohol consumption so long as the person is not impaired.

What do you think?

Utah may be the first State to go to a 0.05 BAC “legal limit”

Four years ago, the NTSB recommended that the DUI “legal limit” be lowered from 0.08 to 0.05, which would put the United States in line with most other countries.  As I have noted in the past, the research as to whether 0.05 BAC is a better indicator of impairment than 0.08 is muddled.

Now, Utah, a State that has always had strict laws about alcohol sales, is looking at being the first in the nation to lower its limit to 0.05.

From the Chicago Tribune:

…state Rep. Norman Thurston, a Republican from Provo who plans to introduce a bill on the issue in the upcoming legislative session, wants that to change in 2017.

Impairment starts with the first drink, and we want to establish this state as one where you just simply do not drink and drive,” said Thurston, noting he worked with officials from the Utah Highway Patrol while drafting the legislation. “This is all about safety.”

…A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chart shows how a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 — about three drinks in one hour for a 160-pound man — causes, among other things, altered coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects and difficulty steering a motor vehicle.

For men weighing less than 160 pounds and for women, it takes even fewer drinks to reach the .05 threshold. If Utah makes the change, it will join several countries in Europe — such as Austria, France and Germany — that have blood-alcohol limits of .05. (In Poland, it’s .02).

In 2013, the NTSB released a report recommending that states lower to .05 the limit at which people can be prosecuted for drunk driving.

…Art Brown, president of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the local Fox affiliate the group would not support Thurston’s proposal. Instead, he said, the group prefers to focus on interlock devices prohibiting people from driving drunk.

“MADD’s position is we really emphasize interlocks and getting those on people and staying .08,” Brown said.

The state has long had a fraught relationship with alcohol. Mormons, who are forbidden from drinking liquor, make up nearly 60% of the population.

…In Utah, alcohol is not a major cause of fatal automobile crashes. Drunk driving was a contributing factor in about 13% of fatal crashes last year, according to the Utah Highway Safety Office. By contrast, speed played a role in 37% of deaths, and no seat belt use was a factor in 31%.

Last year, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White stated that he believed that the 0.05 limit needed further study before he could support a chance.

Illinois Secretary of State White says 0.05 BAC law needs further study

From the Sun-Times:

Secretary of State Jesse White believes the idea of reducing Illinois’ drunk-driving threshold merits “further study,” his office confirmed Tuesday after a federal agency recommended all states scrap their .08 DUI standards.

The National Transportation Safety Board urged all 50 states to lower their drunk-driving limits by nearly half from .08 blood-alcohol content to .05 blood-alcohol content.

“It’s an issue that needs further study. We commend them for looking into this and the work they’ve done. But we feel at this point, it needs more study to go to .05,” White spokesman Dave Druker told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Druker said White was not prepared to move any kind of legislative package in the dwindling days of the spring legislative session and that his senior staff would delve more deeply into the NTSB’s findings.

A 180-pound man could drink no more than two 12-ounce servings of light beer in an hour to stay below a .05 blood-alcohol content, according to an online blood-alcohol calculator maintained by the University of Oklahoma.

Under the existing .08 law, that same person could drink four 12-ounce servings of light beer to remain below the drunk-driving limit, the university calculator showed.

When asked whether the secretary of state’s office has a concern about how those tighter standards would could make it impossible for Illinoisans to drink alcohol at weddings, anniversaries or Super Bowl parties and still drive legally, Druker said, “It’s an issue.”

But Druker cautioned that White had not formulated a position on the NTSB recommendations.

“I don’t think we’ve thought it through to that extent. We just heard about the report today,” Druker said.

Illinois has had a .08 blood-alcohol standard since 1997, when then-Secretary of State George Ryan successfully pushed the change through the General Assembly. Previously, the state’s drunk-driving limit stood at .10 blood-alcohol content.

Research muddled at best about 0.05 BAC change

Over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story about the proposed change to reduce the “legal limit” blood alcohol level to drive to 0.05 (from the current 0.08).  As you can see from the article, not even MADD supports the change.

From the article:

Research suggests that lowering the legal limit of intoxication to 0.05 could save 500 to 1,000 lives a year.

But many safe-driving advocates are conspicuously silent on the issue of whether 0.05 is high enough impairment to merit criminal charges. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is standing down, as is Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. The venerable Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which notes that it never takes formal positions on policy, said police will have trouble enforcing 0.05.

At the core of concerns about 0.05 is the tricky issue of when alcohol impairment becomes criminally negligent. How does slight alcohol impairment differ from impairment caused by drowsiness, cellphone use, medication, aging or other conditions? Is it reckless to get behind the wheel after two glasses of wine at a dinner party? A large beer at a Blackhawks game? A couple of cocktails at a reception?

Research on the topic is voluminous — and resembles a weaving car.

The National Sleep Foundation states that drowsiness is very similar to alcohol impairment and “can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol,” according to a report on the topic. Being sleepy can slow reaction times, limit vision and create lapses in judgment and delays in processing information, the foundation states.

“In other words,” the foundation reports, “driving sleepy is like driving drunk.”

A 2003 study by University of Utah showed that motorists who talk on cellphones — hands-free or not — are as impaired as drivers at a 0.08 BAC. Study participants drove slower and hit the brakes and accelerated later than those driving undistracted. Drunken drivers drove slower than cellphone users and undistracted drivers but more aggressively. They also followed more closely and hit their brakes more erratically, the research showed.

As to whether such a thing as responsible drinking and driving exists, some research shows that lane deviations and attention lapses occur at a BAC as low as 0.001. MADD and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommend no one drive after drinking.

But the American Beverage Institute, which represents restaurant and bar owners, calls the 0.05 recommendation an effort to “criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” saying that less than 1 percent of traffic fatalities in the U.S. are caused by drivers with a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08. The organization points to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data showing that 70 percent of drunken driving deaths involve a driver with a BAC of 0.15 or higher

Wider use of ignition interlocks is central to MADD’s efforts, too. J.T. Griffin, the organization’s senior vice president of public policy, said MADD supports 0.08 as the limit of legal intoxication in large part because research over 50 years shows definitively that everyone is seriously impaired at that level. Impairment below 0.08 becomes a little more uncertain.

Griffin said pushing to make 0.08 the law “was such a tough battle to fight. We sort of established it as the across-the-board level.”

MADD is taking a more practical approach — including recommending that ignition interlocks be mandatory for all DUI offenders — in continuing its fight against drunken driving. Twenty-one states and four counties in California require interlocks for all drunken driving offenders. In Illinois, first-time DUI offenders must obtain one if they want to drive.

“We’re doing a lot of really positive things,” Griffin said, “and we feel like we’ve got a lot of momentum. To shift to 0.05 really goes against what we’re doing.”

Like many, Griffin said impairment happens below 0.08, but “what that level is, I don’t really know.”

Read the full story here: http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-77226096/