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No highway arrests made in first day under new Utah DUI law

December 31, 2018
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The Unified Police Department conducts an Administrative DUI checkpoint in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. The United States' lowest DUI threshold takes effect this weekend in Utah. (Laura Seitz/The Deseret News via AP)

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (AP) — Utah Highway Patrol officials said Monday they didn’t make any arrests under a lowered DUI threshold in the first 24 hours after the law took effect.

Eight DUI arrests were made, but all were over the old threshold of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit, Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich said.

The new threshold is 0.05 percent, the lowest in the United States.

The National Transportation Safety Board supports the new limit, saying it would save lives if adopted nationwide.

But critics worry it will punish responsible drinkers, hurt Utah’s tourism industry and amplify the state’s alcohol-unfriendly reputation.

Salt Lake Police and Unified Police, two of the biggest agencies covering the metro area, didn’t have any reports of DUI arrests made so far under the lowered threshold either.

Rapich says he hopes the law spurs people to make plans before they drink so they can avoid driving.

“There are a ton of options out there that don’t involve driving yourself home,” he said.

For Utah lawmakers, the change is a safety measure aimed at encouraging people not to drive at all if they’ve been drinking.

The change was easily approved in 2017 by the Legislature, which is mostly Mormon and mostly Republican, and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.

Rapich said troopers aren’t doing anything different and continue to target impaired drivers rather than trying to find drinkers who cross the new threshold.

“We don’t target 0.05, 0.06, 0.077,” Rapich said. “We go out and actively look for opportunities to interdict impaired drivers.”

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