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Protest against lower blood alcohol limit planned for St. Patrick's Day in Salt Lake

First Published      Last Updated Mar 25 2017 05:55 pm


Alcohol» Full-page newspaper ads blast bill; Capitol rally for veto on tap for Friday.

Restaurants and alcohol marketers are uncorking pressure on Gov. Gary Herbert to veto a bill that would make Utah the first state in the country to lower the blood-alcohol content to be legally drunk while driving from 0.08 to 0.05.

The American Beverage Institute bought full-page ads in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News on Thursday. And the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association says it expects hundreds of people to attend a rally it is organizing at the state Capitol on Friday — St. Patrick's Day, a day known for raising a pint or two.

One of the full-page ads was a tongue-in-cheek thank you note supposedly from Colorado to Utah for the new law.



"Arresting moderate social drinkers for having as little as one drink will make us [Colorado] look more attractive to most tourists, businesses and skiers. We know you've always been a little 'quirky' when it comes to alcohol laws, but this is really out there," it said.

The other ad described three steps of what it called Utah hospitality: hit the slopes, have a drink or two with dinner, get arrested driving home.

"We all want to save lives on our roadways, but lowering the legal limit in Utah won't reduce alcohol-related traffic fatalities," said Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

"Instead the move will damage the state's hospitality and tourism industry, while also targeting responsible social drinkers," she said.

However, Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, testified twice for SB115 during the Legislature — and contends that research shows it would save lives and not punish drivers who are not impaired.

She noted that more than 100 countries use the 0.05 limit, and the United States is among relatively few that do not. "Everyone still drinks, but they avoid driving after drinking. … These countries drink more per capita than the U.S., but yet they die less in alcohol-related crashes."

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association is planning a noon rally at the Capitol on Friday, also calling for a veto.

Its Facebook notice for that event says SB155 "will do nothing to stop dangerous offenders," and instead will "be another stigma for the State of Utah that will keep tourists away."

It added the bill "will harm the restaurant industry, as more and more Utahns will eat at home rather than risk having a glass of wine in a restaurant."

The governor has not said whether he will sign the bill yet, but he praised it during the legislative session.

Herbert told reporters then that the bill "is a warning to people: be careful when you get behind the wheel. What we are saying is: if you are impaired, don't drive."

He also said the 0.05 limit is working well in the 100-plus countries that have adopted the standard, and figures it would also work well in Utah.

 

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