As .05 DUI law gets closer to taking effect, industry group keeps pushing for repeal

SALT LAKE CITY — A restaurant and alcohol industry group is running a new ad attacking the author of the state’s controversial .05 DUI law.

The American Beverage Institute released to FOX 13 an advance copy of the ad, slated to run in Tuesday’s Salt Lake Tribune targeting Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo. This time, ABI takes him to task for running a bill clarifying the rights of concealed weapons permit holders who run afoul of the new law.

An ad by the American Beverage Institute against Utah’s .05 DUI law.

“If you’re sober enough to handle a firearm at .05, you should also be able to drive without the risk of a DUI,” the group said in an email.

Rep. Thurston told FOX 13 on Monday night he was “disappointed, but not surprised.”

“It’s another desperate attempt by ABI to create a smokescreen from the real issue,” he said in a text message. “.05 will save lives because fewer people will choose to drive after drinking.”

Rep. Thurston said he was running four bills clarifying the law at the request of stakeholders.

“It is disingenuous of them to attack me for fulfilling my commitment to work with stakeholders over the summer to identify desired tweaks to the law. This bill is at the request of 2nd amendment advocates who felt that the current law needs to be changed. I have also sponsored tweak bills at the request of the restaurants, Democrats in the House, and the defense attorneys,” he wrote.

When it takes effect on New Year’s Eve, Utah’s .05 DUI law will be the toughest anti-drunk driving law in America. It lowers the Blood Alcohol Content threshold from .08 to .05.

Restaurant and hospitality groups have protested the legislation, arguing that it will make Utah look weirder for its liquor laws and harm tourism. However, proponents argue that it will save lives and point to preliminary research showing a drop in DUI crashes.

The ABI has run a series of ads critical of Utah and lawmakers for passing the bill. One such ad led to a rebuke from both Democrats and Republicans over targeting more senior lawmakers for their age in relation to the .05 DUI law.

Governor Gary Herbert has said he would like tweaks to the law, including giving his support for a tiered penalty system for someone arrested on a .05 DUI, but he believes it will go into effect.

Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, has run a bill to delay implementation of the law until 2022 in an effort to buy the Utah State Legislature more time to work on problems with the law.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, recently filed a bill to delay implementation entirely until at least three other states pass it (a move that is viewed as having no chance of passing the legislature).