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 Some states have repealed such laws.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.

Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices

Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices is a basic reference to assist State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) in selecting effective, evidence-based countermeasures for nine traffic safety problem areas: Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving; Seat Belts and Child Restraints; Speeding and Speed Management; Distracted and Drowsy Driving; Motorcycle Safety; Young Drivers; Older Drivers; Pedestrians; and Bicycles.

Holiday Sober Ride Sleigh Tour

Texas Department of Transportation

TxDOT's impaired driving holiday campaign reminds everyone while they are planning for gifts and parties this holiday season, to also make it a priority to plan for a sober ride for themselves, their loved ones and their colleagues. What could be a better gift than to save someone's life? TxDOT is asking Texans to pledge to have a sober ride and to help secure sober rides for friends and family.

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