Impaired driving continues to be a serious traffic safety and public health issue for states. In 2015, 10,265 people were killed in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes, accounting for 29 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities. According to the American Automobile Association, nearly 1.5 million people are arrested annually for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
It is illegal in forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher. Effective December 30, 2018, Utah's BAC will be set at a level of 0.05 or higher. If someone has a BAC at or above the legal limit, they are legally considered impaired. Some states have different legal limits for certain classes of drivers like minors and/or commercial drivers
Forty-eight states, D.C. and Guam have increased penalties for drivers convicted of driving with a higher BAC. Forty-two states, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands have administrative license suspension (ALS) on the first drunken driving offense. ALS means that a driver’s license is taken away by law enforcement at the time of the offense if the driver failed or refused a chemical test. Some states allow limited driving privileges during an ALS. Once convicted of an offense, a driver may have additional license restrictions and penalties imposed.
Common punishments for conviction of a drunken driving-related offense can include:
- Driver’s license suspension / revocation.
- Imprisonment in a state or county jail.
- Vehicle impoundment and/or vehicle confiscation.
- Vehicle license plate confiscation.
- Ignition interlock device (IID) restrictions.
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse evaluations.
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse treatment programs.
- Monitored sobriety.
Ignition Interlock Devices
Ignition Interlock Devices are installed in motor vehicles to prevent the car from being started if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. Most devices require frequent retesting while the car is running to ensure that the driver is not drinking once the car is started. All states have some type of ignition interlock law, in which judges require all or some convicted drunk drivers to install interlocks in their cars to analyze their breath and disable the engine if alcohol is detected.
Use this interactive map by hovering on a state to view individual state information on BAC levels and administrative license suspension.