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Utah drops DUI blood alcohol limit to 0.05

For decades, every state in the country considered a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent to be at the legal limit for driving drunk. The first state to establish that limit was Utah in 1983.

While Kentucky and every other state continues with a legal limit of 0.08 percent, Utah is again leading the DUI field: In late December, the state dropped the legal BAC limit to 0.05 percent - the lowest in the nation.

DUI in Kentucky

A driver in Kentucky who is found driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater faces a litany of legal problems. For a first offense, a driver 21 years old or older faces:

  • Fines of between $200 and $500
  • Jail time of between 48 hours and 30 days
  • Driver's license suspension of between 30 and 120 days
  • Enrollment in alcohol or substance abuse program for 90 days

The penalties become more severe for a second and any subsequent convictions, and are more severe under mitigating circumstances such as if the driver is younger than 21 years old, driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit, driving in the wrong direction, causes an accident that leads to serious injury or death, or driving with a passenger who is younger than 12 years old.

DUI in Utah

Utah's 0.05 percent BAC limit is the strictest in the country. The American Beverage Institute estimates it takes almost half as much alcohol for a 180-pound adult male to get to 0.05 percent than the previous 0.08 percent.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been advocating this change since 2013, saying impaired driving killed nearly 10,000 in 2011 at a cost of $130 billion.

The bill's sponsor, Utah state Rep. Norm Thurston, says the new limit sends a message to anyone who might think about getting behind the wheel.

The American Beverage Institute, which opposes the new law, says the lower limit will target moderately impaired drivers, not those mostly likely to cause death and danger.

While Utah is one of only 50 states, it's worth noting that the state was the first to lower the BAC from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent in 1983, and while it took two decades for all other states to follow, follow they did. Could the same movement be in store now?

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