There were 9,878 traffic fatalities involving drunk driving in 2011, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA.) While even one death is too many, that number has decreased dramatically over the last 30 years. In 1982, there were 21,113 such fatalities. This decrease is due, in no small part, to the efforts to change both legislation and public opinion by groups like MADD and SADD.
Drawing on the advances in drunk driving legislation in the 1980s, which raised the drinking age in the United States and lowered the legal blood alcohol count (BAC) level from .15% to .10% and then .08%, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended in 2013 that the BAC level be lowered further to .05%. Several states, including California and New York, have imposed an even lower BAC level (.04%) for those with commercial driving licenses.
DUI Enforcement Today
Today, law enforcement officers have an arsenal of laws and devices to help them keep drunk drivers off of U.S. roads and highways. While every state has slightly different laws, most include license suspension (often with work or school privileges) for a first offense. Others, including Ohio and Wisconsin, require DUI offenders with work driving permits to use special, easily-identifiable plates. Still others, including California, make it mandatory for such drivers to install an ignition interlock device that prevents a car from starting if the driver's BAC is too high. Drunk drivers in some states, including Ohio and California, risk having their cars impounded and forfeited for multiple DUI offenses.
The Future of DUI Enforcement
Ignition interlock devices promise to play a greater role in DUI enforcement in the future. Some countries, including Belgium, require all cars be equipped with such devices. Other countries, including Japan, are considering such legislation. There is also talk about making DUI a federal crime in the United States and thus eliminating all of the differences among different state laws. Whatever the outcome of that proposal, it's fairly safe to say that DUI laws in the United States will continue to get stricter.
This is the fourth and last post of a four-part series on the history of DUI laws in the United States and their enforcement. Over the last weeks, we talked about early DUI laws, DUI laws in the post-World War II era. We hope you'll take a minute to review our other three posts about how DUI laws in the United States have evolved over the past decades.
As a skilled and experienced Miami DUI defense attorney, I have more than 30 years of legal knowledge to use to your advantage. My main goal is to fight for your rights and freedoms when you are up against the criminal justice system.
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