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Utah businesses concerned about impact of new drunk driving law

As most Utah residents are aware, the state has long taken what could be characterized as a less than accommodating approach toward alcohol, adopting a network of complex and rather stringent liquor laws in an attempt to curb its influence.

In fact, state lawmakers recently took these regulatory efforts to another level by adopting a first-of-its-kind drunk driving standard initially introduced by the National Transportation Safety Board back in 2013 -- one that has long been dismissed by critics as perhaps being too rigid.

Specifically, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05 that was subsequently signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert back in March. The new blood alcohol limit will take effect in late 2018.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 160-pound man who consumed just two beers in one hour could theoretically see his BAC exceed this new .05 limit.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Norm Thurston (R-Utah County), has stated the bill will not only serve to lower the state's DUI fatality rate, but also demonstrate the necessity and feasibility of such a move to the rest of the nation.

However, not everyone is on board with Utah's serving as a model to the rest of the nation when it comes to drunk driving enforcement. Indeed, many businesses in the restaurant and hospitality sector are convinced that the new BAC is exceedingly low, and will drive away patrons, tourists and conventions.

"This law targets moderate, responsible, social drinkers and it doesn't target the high BAC hard core drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol related fatalities," said an official with the American Beverage Institute.

Many business owners are now taking matters into their own hands in an attempt to get the law repealed or at least amended. For example, many have banded together to sponsor aggressive advertisements warning tourists about the Beehive State being a place to "come for vacation, leave on probation."

Similarly, the Utah Hospitality Association has launched a GoFundMe page in the aim of raising at least $25,000 to help fund year-round lobbying efforts to pressure lawmakers into reforming the new BAC law, and helping ensure that other measures aren't pursued, such as banning 3.2 percent beer sales in gas stations and grocery stores.

Stay tuned for updates on this developing and important story …

Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have questions or concerns about a business-related matter, including formation, transactions and contracts. 

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