Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert has signed into law the toughest standard in the country for drunk driving, setting a level that could be exceeded by as little as two beers. The Republican said the bill he signed Thursday, which lowers the blood-alcohol limit to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent, will save lives. All other states have 0.08 as the legal limit. Attempts to lower the limit to 0.05 have failed recently in Hawaii and Washington.

At 0.05 BAC, a 160-pound man could be legally too drunk to drive if he consumed two beers too quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use a 160-pound man as a base reference. For that person, the difference between 0.05 and 0.08 is a single drink, depending on the timeframe. To stay legal, a 160-pound man could have no more than two drinks per hour on an empty stomach. A 137-pound woman could be too drunk to drive if she consumed three drinks in two hours without food.

Opponents including the ski and restaurant industries said the move could hurt tourism and increase the predominantly Mormon's reputation as a place unfriendly to those who consume alcohol.

"Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation," read an ad paid for by the American Beverage Institute.

Some gun-rights advocates also opposed the bill. Utah is an open-carry state, but that right is limited by the blood-alcohol standard for driving, so some saw it as an "ugly hidden Easter egg for gun owners" that deserved further debate.

"Public safety is our focus," Gov. Herbert said in a statement. "This law does not target drinking; it is a public safety law that targets impaired driving."

In 2014, the CDC reports, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes, which was 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. Evidence suggests that one drink can have a detrimental effect on driving. Gov. Herbert posted to Twitter a 2001 scientific review by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that found, "A large body of creditable research over many years has clearly shown that impairment of tasks necessary for safe driving begins at levels as low as 0.05 percent."

And the governor pointed out that France, Italy, Russia and Australia, places where people are known to have a drink, all have a threshold of 0.05 or even lower.


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