SALT LAKE CITY — Alcohol-related crashes were way down during the first quarter of 2019, according to statistics from the Utah Highway Patrol.
But whether that's because of Utah's new .05% blood alcohol level — the strictest DUI limit in the nation — was unknown.
"I hope it is, but there isn't enough data yet," said UHP Sgt. Nick Street.
At the very least, Street believes the new law is creating a "healthy fear" among people who are making arrangements not to drive before going out.
From Jan. 1 through March 31, UHP troopers arrested 2,713 people for suspicion of DUI. Of those, 135 had a blood alcohol content measuring between .05% to .079%.
But of that group, 59 were under the age of 21, and 27 were alcohol-restricted drivers, meaning they would have also been arrested under the old .08% limit, leaving 49 people who were arrested under the state's new blood alcohol limit.
The majority of people being arrested for investigation of DUI are measuring well over .08%, Street said.
Also during the first quarter of the year, there were 236 alcohol-related crashes that resulted in three fatalities, according to the UHP. That's compared to 416 crashes and 10 deaths during the same time period in 2018.
So far during the so-called 100 deadliest days of summer, which runs from the Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, there have been 11 people killed in 11 crashes from May 24 through July 1. Last year, between May 25 and July 2, there were 30 crashes resulting in 34 deaths, according to the UHP.
With many Utahns enjoying an extended holiday weekend this week, the UHP is reminding people to ride share or get a designated driver if the are going to Fourth of July events that include alcohol. Troopers will be working more than 170 extra DUI shifts over the weekend.
In 2017, the UHP recorded a total of 10,766 arrests, or an average of 29.5 a day, during the holiday, according to UHP statistics. The number of people arrested for investigation of DUI on that Friday night averaged 48.52 in 2017, the largest of the week.