U.S. Government Study: Lowering Utah’s Blood Alcohol Rate Has Dropped the Auto Crash Rate by Nearly 20% and the Fatality Rate by Over 18%

According to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic deaths in Utah decreased significantly after the state lowered its impaired driving legal limit to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% from the previous limit of 0.08%.

In 2016, the last full year before the state voted to lower its blood alcohol level to .05%, Utah recorded 259 fatal crashes and 281 fatalities. In 2019, however, Utah recorded only 225 fatal crashes and 248 fatalities.

These figures translate to a 18.3% reduction in the fatality rate and a 19.8% reduction in the fatal crash rate.

The United States, on the other hand, only experienced a 5.9% fatality rate reduction and a 5.6% fatal crash reduction during the same time frame.

{NOTE:  The fatal crash rate measures the number of crashes involving a fatality over total vehicle miles traveled. Conversely, the fatality rate measures the number of fatalities over total vehicle miles traveled.}

According to Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator:

“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. 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%.”

Interestingly, the study also found that after the law was passed, 22% of drivers said that they changed their behavior including ensuring a sober ride was available when drinking away from home.

Clearly, Utah's lowered blood alcohol limit law not only saved lives, but also improved road safety – at least the NHSTA says so.  

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