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States Legal Limits for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Friday 27 December, 2013.
In the US, the BAC limits for DUI/DWI laws are determined by individual States. The limit of 0.08 BAC used in some States is the highest level in the industrial world.
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
A 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
A 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
Research 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
An 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
Virtually 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
ALR 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
Results 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. 10
All 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.