Summit County records four DUI arrests since new law took effect amid statewide dip
Four drivers have been arrested in Summit County for suspicion of DUI since the state lowered the blood-alcohol content threshold to 0.05 at the end of December.
The four people were booked into the Summit County Jail between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, said Lt. Andrew Wright, of the Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officers with the Kamas and Park City police departments, as well as Utah Highway Patrol, conducted the arrests on S.R. 248 just outside of Kamas, on Interstate 80 and within Park City limits.
The new law went into effect on Dec. 30 and lowered the threshold for impaired driving from 0.08 percent to 0.05.
Wright suspects that the new law has scared drivers, causing many to realize they don’t want to chance it. He emphasized that law enforcement’s stance toward impaired driving hasn’t changed.
“They are looking at different options and opportunities to use a shuttle or share-ride service,” he said. “I think those that are responsible or want to be responsible will make that effort and this new law would be more encouraging for people to take it seriously. Our hope is that people will take driving impaired more seriously and make the decision not to get behind the wheel and utilize different options to get home safety.”
The Utah Highway Patrol saw a reduction in DUI arrests from 46 to 29 between Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 compared to that same time period in 2017-2018. One of the Utah Highway Patrol’s arrests took place in Summit County, resulting in the driver being one of four people booked into the Summit County Jail on suspicion of DUI. His blood-alcohol concentration registered 0.059. The other drivers arrested by UHP were well above 0.08.
The driver arrested in Summit County on Jan. 1, identified as a man from Wyoming, told law enforcement he had attended a rave at the Great Saltair in Magna on New Year’s Eve, said Sgt. Nick Street, a spokesman for the Utah Highway Patrol.
Street said the man was heading back to Wyoming with his girlfriend when he allegedly elbowed her in the face. The woman then got out of the car at a gas station and called 911 to report the incident.
“A trooper intercepted and pulled him over on Interstate 80 for suspicion of domestic violence,” he said.
The trooper noticed signs of impairment and detected the smell of alcohol, requiring the man to perform field sobriety tests, Street said. He said the trooper believed the man was impaired and unable to safely operate his vehicle. An initial breathalyzer test showed the man’s blood-alcohol concentration to be 0.089.
He was given another test at the Summit County Jail roughly two hours later that showed a reading of 0.059.
“The arrest would have still been made whether he blew 0.05 or 0.08,” Street said. “But, the difference right now is before it is quite possible that prosecutors wouldn’t have taken the case. This is kind of a good scenario to show why the law is effective. The trooper who made the arrest in Summit County felt that individual was unsafe to be operating a motor vehicle. The important thing to us is we haven’t changed our tactics. We still arrest based on impairment standards that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides and that is what we go off of.”
Street credited the reduction in DUI arrests in part to the Utah Highway Patrol’s messaging prior to the new law going into effect. He said there were the same amount of troopers looking for impaired driving this year as 2017. Street also mentioned the availability of ride-sharing services.
“I think that is one of the biggest contributors to us seeing lower numbers,” he said. “I think that is why we have seen a 50 percent decline in the state’s DUI arrests since 2010, where we had 12,000 arrests across the state. In 2017, we saw 6,000.”
One of the other areas where Street said he hopes to see a reduction is in the number of fatal alcohol-related crashes. He said that number has remained steady.
“That is where we hope the 0.05 will help public safety in the state,” he said.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.