Alcohol Impaired Driving

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 will be 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. 26 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, 9 states require them for repeat offenders; and 8 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.

Drunk Driving Law Chart
Law Chart

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. 33 states and 3 territories have open container laws which meet federal requirements. 28 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 Some states have repealed such laws.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.

Sources: Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol ProblemsInsurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and State Highway Safety Offices.

Short Term Description
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 will be set at 0.05 percent.

Director of Highway Safety in WV Division of Motor Vehicles says drunk driving arrests are down

While alcohol-related traffic fatalities have decreased in West Virginia, drug-impaired driving fatalities are on the rise. West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program Director Bob Tipton explains the challenges to curbing drugged driving.

Director of Highway Safety in WV Division of Motor Vehicles says drunk driving arrests are down

May 20, 2018

Georgia Takes Action on Handheld Cell Phone Use While Driving

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2018

CONTACT: Madison Forker, mforker@ghsa.org
202-789-0942 x120

States Strengthen Traffic Safety Laws in 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday afternoon, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed H.B. 673 into law, making the state the 16th (along with D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to ban handheld wireless device phone use behind the wheel.

Jim Reaper scaring South Dakota into driving safely. ‘Death is always riding shotgun’

The South Dakota Office of Highway Safety recently debuted its chilling new "Jim Reaper" PSAs. Office of Highway Safety Director and GHSA Treasurer Lee Axdahl discusses the campaign's message.

Jim Reaper scaring South Dakota into driving safely. ‘Death is always riding shotgun’

February 5, 2018
Article by Lisa Gutierrez

In English or Spanish, digital billboards' message is the same: Don't drink and drive

Grantees of the Nebraska Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office have debuted bilingual billboards messaging against drunk driving. This article references GHSA data on alcohol-impaired driving.

In English or Spanish, digital billboards' message is the same: Don't drink and drive

January 25, 2018
Article by Kevin Cole

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