Utah has one of the fewest DUI-related fatalities in the U.S. Not surprising since a majority of the population doesn’t actually drink alcohol. For those who do drink alcohol, Utah passed even stricter DUI laws and added additional restrictions for brewers.
Stricter DUI Laws
Utah’s recently passed DUI law lowers the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from the previous 0.08 down to 0.05, giving Utah the lowest legal BAC limit in the nation. Expect more violations and plea bargains in the coming months, and if you want to contest, better have bail bond agents on call because Utah hearings can take months to start. Just drinking a single bottle of beer in the past hour can bring you over the limit, especially if you weigh less than 60 kilos and if you’re a woman. The law was passed supposedly to control and limit the occurrences of accidents and fatalities caused by drunk driving. According to the Utah Highway Safety reports, 13 percent of Utah road fatalities are caused by drunk driving-related crashes. Detractors of the new law cite the same report, asking why senior drivers aren’t given the same restrictions. Drivers over the age of 65 account for almost twice the number of crash fatalities compared to alcohol-impaired drivers.
Straight from the Prohibition Era
Utah maintains a standard—that dates back to the prohibition era—restricting groceries, convenience stores, and other establishments from selling beer with more than 3.2 percent alcohol content. Only state-run liquor stores are allowed to sell these kinds of beer, limiting market forces and consumer choices. To date, only Utah and Minnesota still adhere to this outdated standard. Minnesota allows certain establishments to apply for liquor licenses to sell stronger beer. However, there are no such exceptions in Utah. Local breweries are carefully changing brewing recipes to adhere to these laws and appealing for fewer restrictions, but change is highly unlikely. In fact, Utah passed even more retailing limits on alcohol. Grocery stores are now limited to two beer displays in their stores, with clear warnings that the drinks contain alcohol. A new law also requires brewers to submit samples of new products to state laboratories for testing to ensure that alcohol content stays within the limit of 3.2 percent before they can sell new products.
State Control, Religion, and Personal Freedoms
For a conservative state, local government is exerting too much control over the sale and even consumption of alcohol. Some residents believe the state’s strong stand against alcohol is clearly tied to the Mormon faith. More than 50 percent of Utah residents are practicing Mormons, and their religion forbids the consumption of alcohol. Whether this may or may not be the case, state control over personal matters—including sex and alcohol consumption—is becoming more and more authoritarian.
Utah is clamping down on sales of alcohol and imposing stricter laws that are bound to change personal practices. Gone are the days of having one drink with friends before going home, and prohibition seems to be inching its way back with the help of an authoritarian government.