The first day of Utah’s stricter new DUI law was not too different than the year before in terms of drunken driving arrests, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Eight drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in the 24 hours of Dec. 30, Col. Michael Rapich of the UHP and deputy commissioner of Utah’s Department of Public Safety said Monday.
What’s more, Rapich said, all eight blood alcohol levels registered above 0.08 percent, the previous measure for impairment. A new law, enacted in early 2018 by the Utah Legislature, drops the BAC limit to 0.05 percent, the lowest in the nation.
On Dec. 30, 2017, 10 people were arrested for DUI in Utah, Rapich said.
“We didn’t see a lot of change [this Sunday] in what we normally see,” Rapich told reporters.
One of Sunday’s arrests occurred after a wrong-way driver hit a vehicle in Draper. FOX 13 reported that Sonya Wilson, 19, was in critical condition after the crash, which police said was caused by a woman driving east in the westbound lane of 11400 South on Sunday morning.
None of the other DUI arrests Sunday was associated with an accident, Rapich said.
The UHP will be out in force on New Year’s Eve, Rapich said, with 58 troopers on patrol — 25 of them on overtime — in what the department calls its “DUI Blitz,” looking out for drivers who appear to be impaired. UHP will not be setting up DUI checkpoints for the holiday evening, he said, though local law enforcement might.
Only after an arrest is blood alcohol content measured and the stricter 0.05 rule comes into play, Rapich said.
“We’re still arresting based on impairment,” Rapich said, adding that drivers suspected of driving under the influence are put through a battery of field sobriety tests — including a breath test. If a driver fails those tests, Rapich said, an arrest is made.
“If there’s no identifiable impairment," he said, “no arrest is made.”
People going out for New Year’s Eve should plan ahead, he said, either by arranging a designated driver or by catching a taxi or using a ride-hailing service, such as Uber or Lyft.
AAA is offering its “Tipsy Tow” service, giving a free tow and ride home within 10 miles, from 6 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday, for anyone who calls 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357).
Rapich stressed that the one sure way to avoid a DUI is, “if you’re going to drink, don’t drive.”
Editor’s note • The Salt Lake Tribune is a content partner with FOX 13.