DUI Limit – Is a Change in the Works?

Published on May 20th, 2013

DUI Limit – Is a Change in the Works?

DUI Limit DWI Limit

Is there a change in the works for the new DUI limit?

With the current blood alcohol legal limit for drivers in the United States set at 0.08 percent, which is lower than many parts of the world, some wonder if this could change in the near future.

While many are okay with the current limit, it appears that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is pushing for a change.

Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board took part in a meeting in Washington DC during which time it prompted state authorities to reduce the legal limit to 0.05 percent.

At this time, every state has a blood alcohol content limit of 0.08 percent for drivers age 21 and over.

It is important to note that the National Transportation Safety Board does not have the ability to change state laws on its own. That being said, this recommendation is sure to put plenty of pressure on regulators as well as those representing each individual state.

There is no denying that this is sure to upset many people, especially those who make it a habit to “drink a little” and then operate a motor vehicle.

The National Transportation Safety Board has rolled out a campaign, known as “Reaching Zero,” with the intention of decreasing the number of road related alcohol accidents.

Every year, more than 10,000 Americans die due to alcohol related accidents. Along with this, there are even more injuries related to drinking and driving.

Car Crash by DWI driver

Every year, more than 10,000 Americans die due to alcohol related accidents.

Regardless of the fact that this appears to be a good idea on the surface, it is important to note that it took roughly 20 years to lower the legal blood alcohol content limit from 0.10 to 0.08. In fact, it was only in 2004 when every state finally adopted the lower drunk driving limit.

One of the main reasons why every state eventually fell in line is that the federal government threatened to cut back on federal highway funds in states that did not comply.

Does it make sense for the government to do the same once again? At this point, it does not seem that this is likely in the near future. However, pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board, coupled with a push by the federal government, may be enough to make progress.

For a better idea of what this change could do in an overall sense, we don’t have to look any further than what has happened in Europe.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, if the United States implemented a legal limit of 0.05 percent it would not be alone. More than 100 countries currently have this limit, or one with stricter standards, in place.

Even more interesting is this fact: once Europe introduced the lower blood alcohol content limit, traffic deaths related to drunk driving were cut in half within 10 years.

If the United States is serious about making its roads safer for citizens, it will strongly consider reducing the legal limit to 0.05 percent.

Since the change would have to take place on a state level, the sooner the first state gets on board the better.

Current DWI / DUI Penalties by State

The following table has been taken from the Governors Highway Safety Association. It has been used here for the convience of the reader. PLEASE 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.

StateInc. Penalty for High BACAdmin. License Susp. on
1st Offense
Limited Driving Privileges During Susp.
Open Container
Laws*
Repeat Offender Laws*
Alcohol Exclusion
Laws Limiting Treatment
*Meeting Federal Requirements
Ala..15 90 days Yes Yes Yes
Alaska .15
(at judges’ disc.)
90 days After 30 days  Yes
Ariz..15 90 days After 30 daysYes  Yes
Ark..156 months Yes  Yes Yes
Calif. .15 4 months After 30 daysYes  Yes
Colo..17 3 months YesYes Yes 
Conn..16 90 days Yes  Yes 
Del. .16 3 months   Yes Yes
D.C. .20 and .25 2-90 days or until disposition YesYes Yes 
Fla. .20 6 months for DUBAL After 30 daysYesYes Yes
12 months for refusalAfter 90 days
Ga. .15 1 year YesYesYes Yes
GuamFrom .08 to .10  YesYes 
Hawaii.15 3 months After 30 daysYesYes Yes
Idaho .20 90 days After 30 daysYesYes Yes
Ill. .16 6 months After 30 daysYesYes 
Ind. .15 180 days After 30 daysYesYes 
Iowa .15 180 days After 30 daysYesYes 
Kan..15 30 days YesYes Yes
Ky..18 30 – 120 days YesYesYes Yes
La. 1 .15 and .20See footnote    Yes
Maine .15 90 days YesYesYes 
Md..15 45 days Yes, under certain circum-
stances
YesYes 
Mass. .20 (applies to ages 17-21) 90 days YesYesYesYes
Mich. 2.17See footnote After 30 daysYesYesYes
Minn. .20 90 days After 15 daysYes Yes
Miss.  90 days  Yes Yes
Mo..15 90 days After 30 days
(restricted)
   Yes
Mont..16  Yes  Yes
Neb. .1590 days After 30 daysYesYes Yes
Nev. .1890 days After 45 daysYesYes 
N.H. .16 6 months YesYesYes
N.J..10  YesYes Yes
N.M. .16 (w/ mand. jail on all offenses)<21: 1 yr.;
>21: 6 mo.
Immediately w/ Ignition InterlockYes Yes
N.Y..18 Variable YesYesYes Yes
N.C. .15 30 days After 10 daysYesYes 
N.D. .18 91 days After 30 daysYesYes Yes
M.P. 30 days –
<6 months
 YesYes 
Ohio .1790 days After 15 daysYes  Yes
Okla. .15 180 days YesYesYes Yes
Ore..1590 days After 30 daysYesYes 
Pa. 3.16 See footnoteYesYes Yes
R.I..10 and .15  Yes  
S.C. .15 1 month (for >.15 BAC) YesYesYes Yes
S.D. 4 .17See footnote YesYes  
Tenn. .20   Yes Yes
Texas.15 90 days if .08 or greater; 180 days for refusal YesYesYes Yes
Utah .16120 days YesYesYes
Vt. 90 days Yes Yes
V.I.  VariableYesYesYes 
Va..15 and .20 7 days   Yes Yes
Wash. .1590 daysWith an ignition interlock driver’s licenseYes  
W.Va..15 6 months After 30 days  Yes Yes
Wis. .17, .20 and .25 6 months YesYes YesYes
Wy..1590 days Yes   Yes
Total States48 + D.C., 1 Terr.42 + D.C., 2 Terr.36 + D.C., 1 Terr.31 + 3 Terr.27 + D.C., 3 Terr.37
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