SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Unintended consequences became the topic of the latest committee hearing centered around Utah’s new .05 blood alcohol content law.
On Wedensday, the Transportation Interim Committee heard from representatives from the Utah Restaurant Association, Visit Salt Lake, Utah Tourism Industry Association, Utah Hospitality Association, American Beverage Institute and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
All expressed concerns the lower blood alcohol content gave Utah a negative perception to potential visitors.
“We are concerned when public policy reaches a point that could negatively impact our industry,” Melva Sine, Utah Restaurant Association.
Industry representatives were brought in as lawmakers look to revise policy after the controversial law lowers the legal blood alcohol content. They argue the national publicity shed Utah in a negative light, causing out-of-state customers to call with concerns.
“I tell you, I would take it all, I would take a hit economically if I thought this law was going to save lives. Those are my grandchildren on those roads,” Marry Crafts-Homer, Visit Salt Lake.
The restaurant and hospitality representatives said the law targets the wrong group of drinkers.
“Very clearly, I’m talking about putting sober people in jail. That’s an unintended consequence,” American Beverage Institute Sarah Longwell said.
*I don’t know that we’re talking about putting sober people in jail as much as we are talking about putting those who are impaired and taking them off the road,” Sen. David Buxton said, (R) District 20.
HB115 advocates point to unofficial reports showing DUI fatalities are down significantly this year, despite higher alcohol sales.
“I think there has been a chilling effect. I think people are more reticent to get behind the wheel. I think they are still drinking in restaurants and bars. I think Utah can lead the way on this,” Majority Whip J. Stuart Adams said.
“I hope that what comes out of this is that we see fewer people drinking and driving and fewer people dying on our roads,” Rep. Norm Thurston said, HB155 sponsor.
It is still early to see the effects of the BAC law, scheduled to go into effect on December 31, 2018. In the meantime, this conversation is expected to continue through the next general session.
Insurance market representatives say it’s unclear what the impact will be on drivers and business policies until sufficient data is gathered. It is expected in 2020.