Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a bill that will lower Utah’s blood alcohol limit for driving from .08 to .05, making it the strictest in the nation.
The governor said his decision to support House Bill 155 came down to one question and one question only: Is it good policy?
“That’s my charge, is it good policy? And I’m here to announce, that after thorough analysis, that I believe it is it is good policy,” he said during his monthly news conference at KUED. “And that this new policy will, in fact, save lives.”
But there are caveats. Calling the legislation “unfinished,” the governor says he will call a special session later this summer for state lawmakers to address lingering issues, such as DUI penalties.
“There are some areas of improvement I think are warranted and are necessary,” he said. “And we can look at impaired driving and distracted driving and repeat offenders — those who in fact have been arrested for DUIs on multiple occasions — and our punishment, and what are the consequences of the punishment,” he said.
The governor’s office has been inundated with hundreds of calls on the bill, most of them in opposition. The legislation has drawn fire from the local restaurant and bar groups, as well as some lawmakers, who say it could hurt Utah’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Herbert said he’s seen no data that shows a negative impact to travel and tourism, and cited other countries in Europe like Germany, France and Italy that maintain a .05 limit.
The bill will not go into effect until December 30, 2018, though Herbert said he’s also open to delaying implementation.
[This story has been updated to reflect that Gov. Herbert has signed the legislation into law.]