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What does Alabama's zero tolerance law mean?

For underage drinkers in Alabama who think one beer is not enough to make them a candidate for a DUI ticket, here is some bad news. The standard 0.08 blood alcohol concentration, which is the legal point of intoxication, is much lower for those under 21. For you, it is 0.02 percent.

That means that the single beer you had a little while ago could very well land you in jail, saddle you with a heavy fine and pull your driving privileges as well, according to FindLaw. To be "impaired" is not a requirement of receiving a DUI if you are under 21—if your BAC is 0.02 percent, you are deemed intoxicated, just as an older driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent.

Alabama and all states in the U.S. have adopted what is known as “zero-tolerance” laws for drivers under the age of 21. Their goal is to deter young drivers from drinking and driving. Why target this group? Because younger drivers account for almost one-third of the deaths in the age group of 15-to-20-year-olds due to car crashes, 35 percent of them involving alcohol. The rate of alcohol use among younger drivers is almost twice the rate of other drivers, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And with underage drinking comes a greater risk for fatal crashes.

With the passage of 1995’s National Highway Systems Designation Act, states were forced to adopt zero-tolerance laws. These statutes set a BAC limit of 0.02 percent or lower for drivers under 21 to be considered under the influence of alcohol or drugs. States that did not approve the laws would no longer be able to use federal funds for highway construction.

In comparing data from the 12 states that were first to enact zero-tolerance laws with data from another 12 states who had not yet done so, the NHTSA found a significant difference. The agency reported a 20 percent drop in fatalities among younger drivers in single-car crashes during night hours. Those were, and still are, the accidents most likely to involve alcohol. To further prove the effectiveness of zero-tolerance laws, the states which had already enacted them saw the most significant drops in fatal accidents.

Although this article has important information about zero tolerance laws, it should not be considered legal advice.


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