SALT LAKE CITY — A total of 38 people were arrested in January for investigation of DUI under Utah's new law that dropped the blood alcohol limit from .08 percent to .05 percent, the lowest in the nation.
But the Utah Highway Patrol believes a more significant statistic is the fact there were 134 alcohol-related crashes during the first month of 2019 resulting in 59 injuries and one death, the lowest number in at least four years.
Although the UHP believes it's still too early to definitively determine how much of an impact the new law is having or if there is any correlation between the .05 percent limit and crash statistics, UHP Sgt. Nick Street said he's encouraged by the apparent early success.
"Maybe people made better choices on the front end," he said of those who did not to get into the driver's seat after drinking, possibly because they were deterred by the new law.
By comparison, there were:
• 166 alcohol-related crashes in January 2016 resulting in 88 injuries and three deaths.
• 150 alcohol-related crashes in January 2017 resulting in 78 injuries and one death.
• 150 alcohol-related crashes in January 2018 resulting in 84 injuries and two deaths.
A total of 844 people were arrested for investigation of DUI in January, the UHP stated. As for the 38 who were arrested under the .05 percent law, only four were arrested solely for investigation of DUI, Street said. That means even under the old .08 percent law, the other 34 would have still have faced additional charges, he said.
UHP released the following details about those arrests:
• Seven of those arrested were under 21 years old, meaning they could not have any alcohol in their system.
• Twenty-four of those arrested were alcohol-restricted drivers, meaning that because of prior offenses, they were not allowed to have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
• Two people also had either illegal or prescription drugs in their systems in addition to alcohol.
• One person refused the Breathalyzer test, so a warrant was obtained to draw blood and have it sent to the Utah State Crime Lab to be tested.3 comments on this story
All arrests were based a court-approved Breathalyzer machine or blood tests from the State Crime Lab, Street said. Field breath tests are not admissible in court.
Although he did not have a case synopsis for each .05 percent arrest, Street said troopers have to have probable cause to pull someone over before their blood alcohol level can be tested. In at least one case, a man wanted for investigation of domestic violence was stopped by UHP troopers. He became the state's first .05 percent DUI arrest.
Because toxicology tests can take an average of eight weeks to complete, Street said only January statistics are currently available.