Facts about DUI/DWI Laws
In the US, BAC limits for DUI/DWI Laws are determined by individual
states. The limit of .10 BAC used in some states is the highest
in the industrial world.1
1999 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) stated that although
the impact of .08 BAC laws is not conclusive, there are “strong
indications that .08 BAC laws, in combination with other drunk driving
laws (particularly license revocation laws), sustained public education
and information efforts, and vigorous and consistent enforcement,
can save lives.”2
multi-state study found that .08 BAC laws correlated positively
with reductions in alcohol-related fatalities, alone or in conjunction
with Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws, in seven of 11
states. In five of these seven states (Vermont, Kansas, North Carolina,
Florida and New Mexico), implementation of the law itself correlated
positively with lower rates of alcohol-related fatalities. 3
In 1998, more than 80 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes
who tested positive for alcohol had BAC levels exceeding .08. 4
indicates that .08 BAC laws reduce not only the incidence of impaired
driving at lower BACs, but also the incidence of impaired driving
at higher BACs (i.e., more than .10). 5
average male weighing 170 pounds would have to consume more than
four beers within one hour on an empty stomach to reach a .08 BAC level. 6
all drivers’ critical driving skills, such as braking, steering
and lane changing, are impaired at .08 BAC. The rate of impaired
performance is as high as 70 percent. 7
Federal law requires that states have laws that target repeat intoxicated drivers.
Four categories of laws impact these individuals: licensing
sanctions (ALR laws); vehicle sanctions (vehicle impoundment); required
alcohol assessment and treatment; and mandatory sentencing. 8
laws do not replace criminal prosecution and their constitutionality
has been consistently upheld when challenged. All state appellate
courts that have considered this issue have upheld ALR as a constitutional
means of protecting the public from impaired drivers. 9
of a 1996 study indicate that ALR laws do not significantly impact
an offender’s job or income. The study compared three ALR
laws states with one state that used other sanctions and found no
difference regarding offender employment or income. In both ALR
and non-ALR laws states, 94 percent of offenders who were employed
at the time of their arrest were still working one month later.
Four percent were unemployed and two percent were in school. License
revocations as long as 90 days did not lead to loss of job or income.
states and the District of Columbia have a minimum drinking age
of 21. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
(NHTSA) estimates that these laws have reduced traffic fatalities
involving drivers ages 18-20 by 13 percent and have saved as many
as 23,043 lives since 1975. In 2000, the number of estimated lives
saved by minimum drinking age laws was 922. 11
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (April 2001).
Setting Limits, Saving Lives: The Case for.08 BAC Laws. Washington,
DC: US Department of Transportation.
4 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). State Legislative Fact Sheet, .08 BAC Illegal Per Se Level. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
5 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (January 2001). State Legislative Fact Sheet, .08 BAC Illegal Per Se Level, Point-Counterpoint. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
6 Supra Note 4.
7 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. (2000). DUI/DWI Laws as of October 2000.
8 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). State Legislative Fact Sheets, Repeat Intoxicated Driver Laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
9 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). Administrative License Revocation (or Suspension), Key Facts. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
11 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). Traffic Safety Facts 2000, Alcohol. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation