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Keller @ Large: Why Can't Massachusetts Have Tougher Drunk Driving Laws?

BOSTON (CBS) - This weekend kicks off a busy stretch of partying for many people that will peak on New Year's Eve, otherwise known as amateur night.

And unfortunately, we all know what that means - a greater than usual chance of encountering drunk drivers on our roads. According to state officials, we lose around 150 people every year in Massachusetts to crashes involving impaired drivers.

In Utah, a state with far fewer DUI-related fatalities than us, they take impaired driving much more seriously. Next week, a new first-in-the-nation law will go into effect there that will lower the maximum legal blood-alcohol level from .08, the same maximum we have, to .05.

"We really don't want people making the call for themselves. We don't want them saying, 'Well, I've had some to drink and I know I'm a little bit impaired but I don't know if I'm too impaired to drive or not.' Reality is if you've been drinking, you are impaired at least a little bit and you shouldn't be driving," said Utah state Rep. Norm Thurston.

According to national highway safety officials, a blood-alcohol content of just .02 can impair your ability to drive. At .05, your coordination is reduced and most people start to have problems steering properly.

So if it would save lives here, why shouldn't Massachusetts follow suit?

No reason, but we likely won't because we often lag behind others when it comes to drunk driving laws, thanks to an active defense-lawyer lobby and broad public apathy.

Think about that when you see somebody weaving all over the road over the next few days.

Talk back to me via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge and have a happy - and safe - new year.

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