The fatal crash rate in Utah dropped by 19.8% and the fatality rate decreased by 18.3% in 2019 — the first year after the state passed its .05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) law, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Specifically, in 2019, Utah experienced 225 fatal crashes and 248 fatalities as compared with 259 and 281, respectively, in 2016 — the last full year before Utah voted to lower the blood alcohol level to .05%.
Moreover, attitudes toward drinking and driving also changed. Some 22% of people who drank alcohol said they had changed their behavior since the law went into effect, mostly by planning for a sober driver.
Utah is the first and only state to adopt the .05% blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers. Eleven other states allow penalties for some impaired drivers with a BAC lower than .08%. However, Hawaii and New York are both pursuing lowering the BAC to .05%.
Utah typically has one of the lowest rates of impaired driving fatalities in the nation, but the study is evidence that there is always room for improvement.
Noteworthy, Utah’s drunk driving arrests did not increase significantly as expected after the .05% law went into effect. Rather, arrests remained consistent and even decreased slightly — from 8,828 in 2016 to 8,512 in 2019 under the new law, according to the NHTSA report.