States Are Cracking Down on Drinking and Driving Limits

States Are Cracking Down on Drinking and Driving Limits

Utah enacted the strictest blood alcohol level standards in the country, with other states following suit.
States are lowering the blood alcohol level for legal driving

If you've made a habit out of joining your co-workers for a happy hour after work, take note.

States are changing their drunken driving laws, and what you thought was a harmless glass or two might be enough to push you over new limits.

Until recently, the limit to drive legally was standard across every state: a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08%. Above this amount, you were considered legally drunk. This may have led you to believe that if your BAC was less than 0.08%, your driving wasn't impaired and it was safe for you to drive. But according to the National Transportation Safety Board, impairment begins after just one drink, and after a year of campaigning, it's finally getting states to lower their limits for legal driving.

Utah becomes first state to lower its limits

On Dec. 31, 2018, Utah became the first state to reduce its blood alcohol level for legal driving to 0.05%.

That's the equivalent of one to two recent drinks for a 120-pound person and two to three recent drinks for a driver weighing around 160 pounds.

But Utah isn't alone in lowering its limits. At least four more states—including Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington—have considered legislation to lower their limits, too. And other states with high drunken-driving statistics, such as Montana, are likely to consider new laws in the future.

These bills have been staunchly opposed by restaurant and beverage industry lobbyists, such as the American Beverage Institute. The ABI contends that the majority of alcohol-related driving fatalities are caused by repeat offenders with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, and that distracted driving (such as driving while on the phone) poses a greater risk. States agree that distracted driving is a problem, and they're cracking down on that as well. But the beverage industry may be fighting an uphill battle as more states consider lowering their limits, something already in place in Canada and western Europe.

How do DUIs affect your car insurance?

Aside from the obvious legal implications of receiving a DUI or DWI, a conviction can also cost you money. Nationally, drivers convicted of a DUI will face a median increase of 86.5% to their auto insurance premiums, although the exact penalties you'll face will depend on your state. For example, DUIs in North Carolina raise your insurance premium by 309%, while getting one in Wyoming will incur an increase of just 27%.

In many cases, your insurer will also need to file an SR-22 form on your behalf, which proves you've purchased the required amount of liability coverage. Typically, the SR-22 will need to remain on file for three to five years.

And finally, if you've seriously injured another person or damaged their property while driving, or if this isn't your first offense, you could have your license revoked for up to two years.

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