One-fourth of young drivers aged 15-20 who are killed in crashes have been drinking, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Of those killed, 82 percent of them had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher. The other side of that equation shows that nationwide, laws setting a minimum drinking age of 21 have helped save more than 30,000 lives since 1975.
FindLaw explains that, for drivers 21 and older, the legal BAC limit is 0.07 percent. Anything higher gets you a ticket for DUI. However, younger drivers face criminal charges for having a BAC of 0.02 or higher. Why so tough on young drivers? Because their alcohol-involvement rate is nearly double that of older drivers, and underage drinking at any level, even a tiny amount, increases the risk of fatal accidents.
A national highway safety law in 1995 required states to adopt a 0.02 percent BAC or lower for young drivers to qualify to receive federal funds for highway construction. All states have since consented to the condition, setting that limit as a “per se offense.” What that means is that police are not required to prove intoxication if the driver’s BAC is above the limit.
These zero-tolerance laws showed immediate benefits when the first handful of states to adopt them were compared to others who had not yet enacted them. The zero-tolerance states saw a 20 percent reduction in fatalities from single-car crashes that occur at night. These types of crashes are typically the ones most likely to include alcohol.
Health and safety aren’t the only benefits of zero tolerance laws. For young drivers, it means not having a DUI conviction on your record that could affect your future employment as well as insurance rates.
This article contains important information on zero tolerance laws that is general in nature. It should not be taken as legal advice.