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Know the Law

The following laws exist in most states, and have more of an impact if consistently enforced.

Alcohol Law at a Glance

Federal, State, and Local Laws

  • The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required that all states set 21 as the minimum legal drinking age. Despite recent attempts to lower the legal drinking age, it remains one of the most effective policies to prevent underage drinking. Other laws include:
  • False Identification prohibits possessing a fake or altered identification card, such as a driver’s license, to illegally purchase alcohol.
  • Keg Registration laws require that beer kegs sold for off-premise consumption are tagged and registered to the purchaser, which can be traced if underage persons consumed alcohol from the keg.
  • Social Host laws, or prohibitions against hosting underage drinking parties, hold individuals (social hosts) responsible for underage drinking that occurs on their property.
  • Minors in Possession (MIP) are laws that prohibit the possession and/or consumption of alcohol by those under 21 years old.

More detailed information about federal and alcohol-related laws can be found on the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Other Drugs

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs remains a serious problem. Drivers are considered to be under the influence of alcohol when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. In 2012, 10,322 individuals with a BAC of .08 or higher were killed in alcohol-involved driving crashes in the United States, accounting for 31% of total traffic fatalities that year. During that same year, the highest percentage (32%) of drivers in fatal crashes was among 21-to-24-year old individuals (CDC).

Each year, an estimated 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, and an estimated 3,360,000 drive under the influence of alcohol. Because of the prevalence and dangers associated with drinking and driving, many campus communities have implemented safe ride or designated driver programs that provide safe transportation for students and others who have been drinking.

While a lot of attention has been focused on drinking alcohol and driving, there is less known about driving under the influence of illicit drugs and prescription and over-the-counter medication. According to an Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) analysis of 2009 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (FHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS):

  • 3,952 fatally injured drivers nationwide tested positive for drugs, with narcotics and cannabinoids accounting for almost one half of all positive results.
  • 23 percent of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs were under the age of 25.
  • Almost half (42 percent) of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under the age of 25.

Educational and awareness programs, enforcement efforts, effective policies, and more research are still needed to prevent drinking and drugged driving and improve highway safety.

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