When Did Drunk Driving Become Illegal Federally?

When Did Drunk Driving Become Illegal Federally? 

In the United States, drinking and driving became illegal in the 1980s. In 2000, the legal BAC limit for drunk driving was set at 0.08%. What does that mean for alcohol-related fatalities and DUI arrests? This article will explore the history of the legal BAC limit and how it changed DUI arrests and alcohol-related fatalities. 

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Drunk driving became illegal in the United States in the 1980s 

New York was the first state to make driving under the influence of alcohol illegal. In 1910, lawmakers passed legislation banning the practice, but there were no tests or guidelines for determining drunkenness. Law enforcement officers simply relied on their best judgment. Soon after, California followed suit. However, the early laws didn’t have a clear definition of “drunk” and were rarely enforced. 

The movement was spurred by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization, which began lobbying for tougher drunk driving laws. The group’s goal was to get the drinking age raised to 21 and lower the legal BAC limit to.08. Today, all states have this law. 

Impact of BAC limit on alcohol-related fatalities 

Research has shown that lowering the BAC limit for drivers will have a major impact on alcohol-related fatalities. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found a significant reduction in fatal crashes with an alcohol concentration of 0.05 g/dL or lower. Currently, drivers in all 50 U.S. states can still be charged with impaired driving even if they are below the legal BAC limit. 

Strong laws and enforcement can deter impaired driving. For example, administrative license revocation can occur for drivers with BACs of 0.08 grams per deciliter or more. In addition, well-publicized programs like sobriety checkpoints are also effective deterrents. 

Impact of BAC limit on DUI arrests 

The impact of BAC limits on DUI arrests has not yet been established. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the change may be having an impact. According to recent state surveys, a greater percentage of drinkers were aware of the new BAC level than they were in the previous year. Twenty-two percent reported that they were making plans to get a ride home rather than drive while intoxicated. 

While Utah’s lower BAC limit has not dramatically increased DUI arrests, it has seen a drop in arrests for drivers with BAC levels between.05 and.079 g/dL. In addition, arrests of drivers with higher BAC levels decreased. However, the state cautioned that data on these statistics is incomplete and should not be relied upon as definitive evidence. 


When Did Drunk Driving Become Illegal Federally? | Montag Law