New Data from NHTSA Found that Utah’s .05% Law Improved Road Safety
A new study shows that Utah’s latest law to drop its impaired driving legal limit reduced fatalities.
Could a decrease in legal blood alcohol content improve transportation safety and save lives?
The National Highway Traffic Association has released a new study that analyzes data from Utah before and after the state dropped its legal impaired driving limit to .05 percent. Despite the fact that there was an increase in miles travelled, Utah’s fatal crash rate dropped by 19.8 percent in 2019, the first year under the lower limit.
Utah recorded 225 fatal crashes and 248 fatalities in 2019, which is lower than the 259 crashes and 281 fatalities from 2016, the last full year before Utah voted to lowered the blood alcohol level.
NHTSA compared the percentage drops in Utah to those of the rest of the United States, noting that there was only a 5.6 percent fatal crash rate reduction in 2019 for the culmination of states.
“Utah typically has one of the lowest rates of impaired driving fatalities in the nation, but this study shows that all states have room for improvement,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator in a press release. “As our study shows, changing the law to .05% in Utah saved lives and motivated more drivers to take steps to avoid driving impaired. NHTSA conducts research on the effectiveness of countermeasures to improve safety on the nation’s roads, and this study will be a useful tool for other States considering a move to .05%.”
The study also took a look into the driving behaviors of Utahans who choose to drink. In 2019, more than 22 percent of those who drank indicated that they had changed their behaviors once the law went into effect. The most common change was ensuring a sober ride was available when drinking away from home, something NHTSA calls, “an encouraging sign.”
National organizations such as the National Safety Council applauded the new data and said that it was, “ecstatic with the new study results.”
“For decades, this country has seen too many lives lost in preventable crashes where impaired driving was at play,” Jenny Burke, senior director of impairment practice at NSC, said in a press release. “This study shows that the simple act of lowering a state BAC has a direct and immediate impact on saving lives. As America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate, NSC urges all states to follow Utah’s lead and prioritize safety.”