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‘Drink Till Your Eyes Bug Out’

Guv talks controversial DUI bill and more during impromptu press conference.


  • Enrique Limón/FILE

Want to drink yourself into a stupor? Gov. Gary Herbert says go right ahead. But he’s not budging on his stance that if you imbibe, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Period.

Despite hesitation when he signed House Bill 155 last year, Herbert doesn’t expect the state to repeal or delay implementing a new law that lowers the legal alcohol driving limit to .05.

Utah is on course to become the first state in the nation that reduces its blood-alcohol content limit from .08 to .05. The law is scheduled to take effect at the end of the year.

“We’re not saying people can’t drink,” Herbert said Thursday at a press conference. “You can have access to drink. You can drink till your eyes bug out if you want. We’re just saying: don’t drive.”

"We’re not saying people can’t drink...” Herbert said on Thursday. "We’re just saying: don’t drive" - DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris
  • "We’re not saying people can’t drink...” Herbert said on Thursday. "We’re just saying: don’t drive"

The governor expects the law to be tweaked, though, and says he’s talked to legislators who are open to the idea of making the punishments tiered. Herbert emphasized the idea that no matter the limit, signs of impairment will continue to be the reason cops pull over drivers.

“It’s not like there’s going to be some kind of traffic stop where we’re going to take a blood sample and see if you’re at a .05,” he said. “The way that law enforcement functions is to see if people are impaired—impaired driving. That means if you’re weaving back and forth on the road, a trooper or a policeman will pull you over.”

The governor maintains that a .05 BAC impairs one’s driving. He’s less certain, however, that level should interfere with one’s right to pack around a gun. A person with a gun could sit on his or her porch and drink without harming another person, Herbert offered as an example.

“I don’t know if that’s a violation of the law,” he said.

The restaurant industry opposed the bill and national alcohol lobbies have run ads attacking the bill and argued it would harm the state’s reputation as a tourist destination.

“I think the concern is the impact on their business. That’s a legitimate concern,” Herbert said. “I think the good news for them is in spite of outside interests trying to, in fact, keep people away … our tourism and travel continues to excel and grow.”

The session is more than half-way through and with a record number of bills introduced, lawmakers have to speed up the process if they want to get theirs through. Although he considers himself pro-life and against the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, Herbert says he is concerned about the constitutionality of a bill to ban women from aborting fetuses that have Down syndrome.

“I’m concerned about making sure that we follow laws,” he said.

Continuing the greatest-hits of hot topics, Herbert said if legalized, medical marijuana should be treated as any other type of medication that is prescribed by a doctor and doled out by a pharmacist.

“I don’t like the idea of self-medication,” he said.