Jay Evensen: Tough drunken driving laws won’t hurt Utah

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FILE— Utah was the first state to lower its legal drunken driving level to .08 percent in 1983.

SALT LAKE CITY —

News accounts about Utah’s decision to lower the drunken driving threshold to a .05 percent blood-alcohol level have been predictable. Once the governor signed the bill, The Associated Press and others felt obligated to begin their stories by noting this was happening in “predominantly Mormon” Utah.

Yes, that is a true statement, and yes, it is true the state in fact is lowering the threshold to .05 percent. It’s just the connection between the two that’s a bit sketchy.

Having sat through legislative hearings and spoken with many lawmakers about the bill, I can attest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never came up as a motivating factor, nor did it, as an institution, opine on the bill. Instead, the motivation came from the National Transportation Safety Board, which had recommended a .05 level based on research, and which sent a representative to Utah to lobby for the bill.

The news stories illustrate a truism about the state. It probably never will…

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