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Utah’s Drunk Driving Deaths Reduced in First Year .05 BAC Law Took Effect

MADD Commends Research on Lower Drunk Driving Threshold

DALLAS – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) commends new research that found fewer drunk driving deaths and fatal crashes and more people choosing to designate a sober driver in 2019, the first year after Utah passed its .05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, the fatal crash rate in Utah dropped by 19.89%. In addition, the fatality rate decreased by 18.3% in 2019. Attitudes toward drinking and driving also changed: 22% of people who drank alcohol said they had changed their behavior since the law went into effect, mostly by planning for a sober driver.

“The state of Utah made the historic decision to protect its residents and visitors by strengthening its drunk driving law, and we’re seeing the lifesaving results that occurred during 2019,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “We know risky driving behavior increased nationwide in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic, and we anticipate a rise in drunk driving deaths in the majority of states when the final fatality data is available. However, this report shows promising results in the pre-Covid era.”

Utah is the first and only U.S. state to adopt an impaired driving per se limit that is lower than .08 BAC. Eleven other states allow penalties for some impaired drivers with a BAC lower than .08.

MADD supports states that want to pursue lowering the per se law to .05 BAC, such as Hawaii and New York. Last year, the Hawaii Senate passed a .05 BAC measure, but the measure failed in the House.

The Utah study did not find evidence of the economic impacts that had been predicted by opponents with the change from .08 to .05. Additionally, drunk driving arrests did not increase significantly as expected, they remained consistent and even decreased slightly.

For an overview of research on .05 BAC, visit: https://madd.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/05BACResearch.pdf.

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 400,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, [email protected]

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