Drunk driving is always a concern, and often, even more so on New Year’s Eve.
Now, as we enter 2019, the State of Utah is about to become the first in the U.S. to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to just .05.
That drastically reduces the amount of alcohol it takes to be deemed legally impaired.
So, is that something the state of Florida would consider?
With the alcohol already flowing in Tampa Bay, we asked New Year’s revelers what they think about Utah’s new drunk driving law lowering the legal limit from .08 - to .05.
That new limits mean a woman weighing a hundred pounds might be considered impaired after just one drink. A man weight 160 pounds could be legally drunk before finishing a third.
“One drink is all it takes?” asked Linda Parenteau.
“It’s up to you, but I think that would be a good thing,” Laura DaSilva said, already celebrating before noon. “There are too many drivers drinking.”
“I think .05 is a little ridiculous in my mind,” Charles Parenteau said. “I think it could affect the restaurants and bars and the clubs. I mean, people are going to want to go out and enjoy themselves as much as they normally would.”
In Utah, the idea survived an ad campaign from the restaurant and tourism industry warning visitors “Come for a vacation - leave on probation”.
But lawmakers moved forward with the lower limit, and the NTSB is urging other states to consider the same.
People we spoke with say they would have similar concerns about tourism and whether people would reconsider visiting Florida if the limit were lowered.
“Yeah, I mean if you’re coming into town to have a good time for your holiday or whatever, yes, I think they could be a hindrance,” Rob Cogswell said.
Uber drivers, AAA and others who are undoubtedly kept busy New Year’s Eve say they think it’s a good idea, especially since there are more available safe ride-share options out there.
But will people actually use them?
“Takes a lot for people to change,” Uber driver Ryan Arenas said.
"You have some responsible people that will, but others that don't,” Uber driver Torrell Holt said. “You cannot stop a drunk person from driving drunk. They are always going to drive drunk if they feel like they can drive home.”
The Executive Director of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Larry Coggins, says the chapter did not take a position on the Utah law, but would watch it closely.
“MADD has always said impairment begins with the first drink,” Coggins said. “We look forward to seeing the impact Utah’s new .05 BAC law has on reducing drunk driving deaths.”
In a 2017 study conducted by Wallethub.com, Florida ranked 17th on a list of states with tough drunk driving laws, and for that reason, the Sunshine State might not lead the way toward adopting a .05 BAC level.
But the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter says it will keep an eye on the research to see if it creates enough change in Utah to warrant advocating for a similar policy here.
Already, one other state is apparently considering lowering its blood alcohol limit to .05 as well. Oregon says it’s taking a close look at Utah’s law and will consider making a similar change.
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