SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s tougher standard for drunken driving did not produce a significant increase in the number of DUI arrests in 2019, law enforcement officials said.
The Utah Highway Patrol estimates the number of drunken driving arrests in 2019 remained about the same as the previous year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.
The state changed its blood-alcohol standard for legal intoxication from 0.08% to 0.05% beginning Dec. 30, 2018, establishing the strictest DUI law in the nation.
In the first three months of 2019, there were 2,713 drunken-driving arrests in Utah, up from 2,595 in the same period of 2018, a 4.5% increase.
Of those, 135 people were arrested for driving with blood alcohol levels between 0.05% and 0.79%.
Some of those would have been arrested under previous laws, including 59 people under age 21 and 27 who were “alcohol restricted” by courts for previous DUI convictions, police said.
Both of those groups were already banned from driving with any amount of alcohol in their systems.
The change in the blood alcohol law was not intended to increase arrests, but to change the thinking of drivers, the highway patrol said.
“The 0.05 change was absolutely never about arresting people that we wouldn’t have otherwise arrested,” Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael S. Rapich said. “The biggest thing was encouraging people to make better decisions.”
Utah law enforcement agencies previously made an average of 10,000 DUI arrests per year, Rapich said.
“We’re in that ballpark this year,” he said, noting final annual figures for 2019 are not yet available. “So not a really significant change in the number of people that were arrested for DUI.”
He estimated that about 7% of DUI arrests will involve drivers with blood alcohol levels of between 0.05% and 0.079%.