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What is zero tolerance?

If you are younger than 21 and think that single beer you had an hour ago means you do not need to worry about driving, think again. All states in the U.S. have adopted zero-tolerance laws, aimed at deterring drivers younger than 21 from drinking and driving, FindLaw explains. What that means to you is that you do not have to be impaired to be charged with DUI. Adult drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 can be charged with driving under the influence. For those younger than 21, you can be charged with the same offense with a BAC of as little as 0.00 to 0.02 percent.

If you are between 18 and 21, you might wonder why your age group is included in the zero-tolerance law. The reason is that younger drivers have nearly a third of all deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds are due to vehicle accidents, of which 35 percent involve alcohol.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that alcohol use among younger drivers is nearly double the amount of those 21 and older, and underage drinking carries a greater chance of fatal accidents. The federal government passed the National Highway Systems Designation Act in 1995 that required states to adopt a 0.02 BAC or lower as the standard for younger drivers to be charged with DUI. If they did not, they would not qualify to receive federal highway funds.

The federal agency compared statistics of the first 12 states to adopt the laws with 12 others who had not yet passed them. The NHTSA found a 20 percent reduction in fatalities among drivers under 21 who were involved in single-car nighttime crashes. These are the type of crashes more likely to include alcohol as a factor in the accident. To further underscore the comparison, the states that saw the largest reduction in fatal accidents were those who set 0.02 or less as the BAC limit for underage drivers.

This important information about zero tolerance laws is in no way intended as legal advice.

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