Driving under the influence of alcohol has been a serious problem since the creation of automobiles in the United States. Over the years, the problem seemed to grow worse, even as states continued to implement stricter and stricter laws against the practice. While there is currently no federal law against drunk driving, it is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
But each state varies in its enforcement of DUI laws. Some states, for example, automatically suspend the driver’s license after he or she is first convicted for driving under the influence while some require no suspension at all. In addition, some states require ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving after the first DUI offense while others never require the breathalyzers.
In some states, the stricter laws have a direct impact on the percentage of total car accident fatalities that are related to driving under the influence. Utah, for example, which has the lowest percentage of fatal car accidents related to alcohol (17%), suspends an offender’s license for 120 days after the first offense, requires ignition interlocks immediately, and has authorized checkpoints to screen potentially drunk drivers. South Carolina, on the other hand, reports a whopping 44% of fatal car accidents as alcohol-related and requires no suspension after a DUI, mandates ignition interlock devices only for repeat offenders, and does not authorize DUI checkpoints.
California currently suspends a DUI offender’s license for four months, allows DUI checkpoints, and has implemented ignition interlock pilot programs in four counties, Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. Those programs, which require interlocks for all DUI offenders, went into effect on July 1, 2010 and though limited data on their effectiveness currently exists, officials are optimistic. “There is evidence from other states like New Mexico, which had a 60 percent reduction in drunk driving accidents, which suggests that the program will be very successful,” said Silas Miers of the California chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “That’s a pretty significant number especially if compared to California, which has more drivers on the road than any other state.”
For more state-by-state information on DUI laws and statistics, check out our interactive map above.