Utah's recently passed DUI law, which lowers the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers on the road from 0.08% to 0.05%, continues to be heavily contested by lobbyist groups in Washington DC such as the American Beverage Institute. They have been running an extensive marketing campaign in the state of Utah to protest the legislation which is set to go into effect in December of 2018, and recently ran a controversial ad in the capitol's paper.
The full page ad features pictures of 11 of Utah's state lawmakers, including Gov. Gary Herbert, who are all over the age of 65. The headlines above the picture reads, “Too Impaired to Drive?” The ad also suggests that
The ad references two studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on factors which influence a driver's likelihood of having an accident. A 2016 report showed that individuals aged 65 and older are 2.59 times more likely to crash their vehicles than younger drivers. A 1997 report showed that those with a BAC level of 0.05 were 2.03 times more likely to crash. The American Beverage Institute took these number to suggest that if lawmakers were going to make driving with a 0.05 BAC illegal, they should logically also make driving over the age of 65 illegal.
The institute sees the ad as satirical, meant to point out what they see as a needlessly strict and unnecessary limit. The executive director of the lobbying group, Sarah Longwell, stated, “Proponents claim that a driver is notably impaired at .05, but that simply isn't the case. In this kind of analysis, the key word is 'notably.' Almost anything increases the risk of a car accident to some degree — even something as innocent as listening to the radio."
Longwell goes on to state her support for other ways of making roads safer, but maintains that lowering the legal limit is not the way to do so: “Utah lawmakers need to put traffic safety threats into perspective and apply their finite resources to problems backed up by logic, not blindly follow emotional pleas. That way we can actually make Utah's roads safer.”
Politicians targeted in the ad see it as a poor tactic for communicating disapproval. One spokesperson for a Utah congressman featured in the ad told reporters, “Their focus is clearly to try and send a message to other states considering similar policy discussions. Those tactics don't work here. In fact, the only thing they've managed to accomplish is uniting opposing sides on this issue to be appalled by them.”
If Utah's 0.05 BAC law does go into effect next December, it will be a testing ground for lower limits across the nation. Regardless of how the situation plays out, other states will be watching Utah closely to get input on their own limits and regulations surrounding driving under the influence.