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DUI Limit Is a Change in the Works?

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

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
Repeat Offender Laws*
Alcohol Exclusion
Laws Limiting Treatment
*Meeting Federal Requirements
Ala..1590 daysYesYesYes
(at judges’ disc.)
90 daysAfter 30 daysYes
Ariz..1590 daysAfter 30 daysYesYes
Ark..156 monthsYesYesYes
Calif..154 monthsAfter 30 daysYesYes
Colo..173 monthsYesYesYes
Conn..1690 daysYesYes
Del..163 monthsYesYes
D.C..20 and .252-90 days or until dispositionYesYesYes
Fla..206 months for DUBALAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
12 months for refusalAfter 90 days
Ga..151 yearYesYesYesYes
GuamFrom .08 to .10YesYes
Hawaii.153 monthsAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
Idaho.2090 daysAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
Ill..166 monthsAfter 30 daysYesYes
Ind..15180 daysAfter 30 daysYesYes
Iowa.15180 daysAfter 30 daysYesYes
Kan..1530 daysYesYesYes
Ky..1830 – 120 daysYesYesYesYes
La. 1.15 and .20See footnoteYes
Maine.1590 daysYesYesYes
Md..1545 daysYes, under certain circum-
Mass..20 (applies to ages 17-21)90 daysYesYesYesYes
Mich. 2.17See footnoteAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
Minn..2090 daysAfter 15 daysYesYes
Miss.90 daysYesYes
Mo..1590 daysAfter 30 days
Neb..1590 daysAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
Nev..1890 daysAfter 45 daysYesYes
N.H..166 monthsYesYesYes
N.M..16 (w/ mand. jail on all offenses)<21: 1 yr.;
>21: 6 mo.
Immediately w/ Ignition InterlockYesYes
N.C..1530 daysAfter 10 daysYesYes
N.D..1891 daysAfter 30 daysYesYesYes
M.P.30 days –
<6 months
Ohio.1790 daysAfter 15 daysYesYes
Okla..15180 daysYesYesYesYes
Ore..1590 daysAfter 30 daysYesYes
Pa. 3.16See footnoteYesYesYes
R.I..10 and .15Yes
S.C..151 month (for >.15 BAC)YesYesYesYes
S.D. 4.17See footnoteYesYes
Texas.1590 days if .08 or greater; 180 days for refusalYesYesYesYes
Utah.16120 daysYesYesYes
Vt.90 daysYesYes
V.I. VariableYesYesYes
Va..15 and .207 daysYesYes
Wash..1590 daysWith an ignition interlock driver’s licenseYes
W.Va..156 monthsAfter 30 daysYesYes
Wis..17, .20 and .256 monthsYesYesYesYes
Wy..1590 daysYesYes
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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