All states but Utah define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime, and specific laws and penalties vary substantially from state to state. Effective December 30, 2018, Utah’s BAC is set at 0.05 percent.
48 states, D.C. and Guam have increased penalties for drivers convicted at higher BACs (the specific levels and penalties vary by state).
44 states, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands have administrative license suspension (ALS) on the first offense. ALS allows law enforcement to confiscate a driver's license for a period of time if he fails a chemical test. Most of these states allow limited driving privileges (such as to/from work).
All states have some type of ignition interlock program, in which judges require all or some convicted drunk drivers to install interlocks in their cars to disable the engine if alcohol is detected on their breath. 29 states* (and 4 California counties) have made ignition interlocks mandatory or highly incentivized for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders. An additional 3 states mandate interlocks for high BACs, 8 states require them for repeat offenders; and 5 states for both high BAC and repeat offenders. The remaining 4 states and D.C. make interlocks discretionary. *We defer to our State Highway Safety Office members' interpretation of the law. Some groups may have a higher count.
Federal law mandates that states adopt open container and repeat offender laws meeting specific requirements. Otherwise, a portion of the state's surface transportation funding is transferred to the state DOT or State Highway Safety Office. 29 states and 3 territories have open container laws which meet federal requirements. 22 states, D.C. and 3 territories have repeat offender laws which meet federal requirements.
Alcohol exclusion laws allow insurance companies to deny payment for treatment of drunk drivers' injuries, but they have limited doctors' abilities to diagnose alcohol problems and recommend treatment. Currently, 37 states have such laws. Some states have repealed such laws.
A PDF chart of state drunk driving laws is available for download here.
NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on drunk driving laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.
A Stateline investigation identified 38 states in which police arrested or cited school bus drivers since 2015 for allegedly driving a bus while impaired by alcohol or drugs, putting more than a thousand kids at risk.
GHSA Traffic Safety Consultant Pam Shadel Fischer explains why drinking and driving isn't just a holiday issue, but an all year round issue and why she thinks holistic approaches could help save lives by reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road.
GHSA's report, "High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat," focuses on the challenges and opportunities associated with the high-risk impaired driver — a person who lacks the restraint or self-control to resist driving impaired.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) was one of five State Highway Safety Offices to receive a grant from GHSA and ride hailing company Lyft to prevent impaired driving during the 2018 holiday season. With its grant, LHSC complemented its annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" enforcement campaign with social media messaging to spotlight discounted Lyft rides.
As the recipient of a grant from GHSA and Lyft, the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) bolstered its winter anti-impaired driving campaign with additional media efforts and discounted rides for impaired travelers.
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) was one of five states to receive a grant from Lyft and GHSA in 2018. With this funding, OTS augmented its "Go Safely, California" campaign during the holiday season to provide discounted Lyft rides to impaired travelers.