SALT LAKE CITY — It's inevitable that state lawmakers will tinker with Utah's new .05 percent DUI law set to take effect at the end of 2018, and no options are necessarily off the table, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.
Those options may include pushing pause on when the law takes effect to let other states pursue the lower standard for driving while intoxicated. As it stands now, Utah's legal blood alcohol limit would be the lowest limit in the nation.
Herbert, speaking to reporters at his monthly KUED news conference, said the controversial law won't be on the agenda for next Wednesday's special session of the Utah Legislature because it deserves more robust discussion.
"I think there is probably a desire to take a look at it to see if there are modification capabilities there," he said, including possibly implementing a two-tiered system similar to Colorado. In Utah's neighboring state, the enforcement of the lower limit is accompanied by penalties that are less severe than violating the .08 blood alcohol threshold.
"It has appeal to me," the governor said. "That is where I have a sense that this is the right place to land. I think the idea of a two-tiered system of penalties is an idea that has some wisdom."
Herbert, too, said he wouldn't rule out possibly delaying the implementation of the new law until other states adopt the stricter standard.
"Another way to approach it that has come out of the Legislature is: Why don't we wait until two or three other states have the same .05 and we join with them at the same time so that we are not just alone in our approach? That is another way to address it."
Utah's new DUI law has garnered national outrage from the American Beverage Institute, which has targeted the state in full-page ads hypercritical of the lower threshold.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization asserted in advertising this summer that notable Utah politicians age 65 and over, including Herbert, may be too impaired to drive because they are older.
While claiming the ad was satire, the institute also pointed to data from two National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies that detail impairment among drivers 65 and older.
The American Beverage Institute, joined by local hospitality associations, assert the lower threshold will deter tourists — and the money they spend — from visiting Utah.
On Thursday, Herbert said he's heard anecdotal information from law enforcement that the law is already having an impact on DUI incidences because of people who believe it has already taken effect.
He added that specific evidence of that impact will have to be compiled.