Driving when your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit is never a good idea. Aside from the fines and penalties you'll face if you get caught, driving under the influence is dangerous and could lead to the loss of either your life or that of someone else.
Because drunk driving poses so many risks — around 28 people a day die because of drunk drivers — U.S. states have imposed stricter and stricter penalties for drunk driving.
Here's an overview of the toughest DUI laws in the US.
Utah: Lowest Blood Alcohol Level
According to CNN, the number of DUI-related accidents in the Beehive State has declined since it enacted some of the strictest DUI laws in the U.S. five years ago, proving that strict DUI laws do help make the roads safer.
The state lowered the legal blood alcohol threshold from 0.08% to 0.05% in 2017. Moreover, you do not have to be actually driving to be slapped with a DUI — if the driver is in "actual physical control" of the car, meaning they have the keys, they can still be cited.
In Utah, a first DUI offense will get you a mandatory two-day jail sentence (with the option of community service). You'll pay at least $1,390 in fines, and your license will be suspended for 180 days.
Subsequent offenses confer longer periods of mandatory jail time and a prison sentence of up to five years for the third offense. Your license will be suspended for two years for every offense after the first one.
Arizona: Highest MADD Rating
Every year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ranks the states with the toughest DUI laws. In 2020, Arizona received its highest score, a 5 out of 5.
In Arizona, you'll be jailed for no less than 10 consecutive days for a first DUI offense, and you'll face a fine of at least $1,250. You will also have to install a certified ignition lock device in your car, undergo alcohol treatment or education, and perform community service.
With subsequent offenses, you'll face jail time of not less than 90 days, pay a fine of at least $3,000 and lose your license for 12 months.
Maryland: Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking
Maryland also scores high on MADD's list of the states with the toughest DUI laws, a respectable 4.5. For a first offense, drivers face a $1,000 fine and up to a year of jail time. You'll also get 12 points on your license, which may be revoked for up to six months.
Maryland also imposes "zero tolerance laws" for anyone who either engages in or aids and abets underage drinking. Thelegal blood alcohol limit for drivers under 21 is just 0.02%. In addition to a fine of $500 for the first offense, anyone under the age of 21 who is caught drunk driving must participate in an ignition interlock program or have their license suspended.
Those who sells fake IDs to minors, or provide people under 21 years of age with alcohol, also face harsh criminal sentences. You can be fined up to $2,000 and face a prison sentence of up to two years for each fake license you sell. If you knowingly provide alcohol to a minor, you could face up to $2,500 for the first offense.
Do You Know the DUI Laws in Your State?
It's a good idea to find out exactly what the penalties are for drunk driving. But at the end of the day, education is also important, especially if you are just learning to drive. An online teen driver's ed course from DriversEd.com can help you learn the risks and dangers associated with drunk driving — and teach you how to be a safe, responsible driver.