2017 Interim Session – Transportation and Alcohol Update

Transportation interim Committee

The May Interim’s Transportation Committee confronted two important issues today:

  • The Utah Department of Transportation presented on the importance of Utah as a lynchpin of transportation, especially of cargo and freight, in the western U.S. They also observed that, with the population along the Wasatch front expected to double by 2050, automobile transportation infrastructure will not be able to expand to accommodate it. It is strange that UDOT did not bring up air pollution throughout the duration of their presentation. We do hope that the legislature will begin to consider options for alternative means of transportation that both accommodate for our growing population, and shield it from the noxious effects of pollution. We need energy-efficient transportation as soon as we can get it.
  • HB 155, Utah’s new and controversial policy lowering the BAC for being charged with Driving Under the Influence from .08 to .05, came under review. Representative Mike Schultz says that the committee is open to modifying the law between now and when it takes effect in December of 2018. One potential outcome is that the law may come to resemble Colorado’s current law, where driving with a BAC between .05 and .079 has lower penalties than driving with a BAC of .08. Mary Lou Emerson, Chair of the Utah Substance Abuse Advisory Council, notes that a BAC of .05 is the actual threshold for impairment– however, proposals for criminalizing texting and driving, now known to be more dangerous than that lower threshold, were not discussed by the committee. Attorneys also warned the committee that the law was not designed with later court-procedures in mind, saying that the bill will put a financial burden on the criminal-justice system. Finally, some attorneys, along with Representative Karen Kwan, pointed out that the bill makes foreigners “not a drop drivers”, who could be charged with having a BAC of .01.
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