Everyone is familiar with the standard “legal limit” for a blood-alcohol test (or “BAC”). But just in case you are not, it is 0.08 percent. However, what many underage students may not appreciate is that “legal limit” does not apply to them. For anyone under the age of 21, the acceptable limit for a BAC is 0.00 percent. This zero-tolerance policy sometimes trips up underage drinkers who do not understand that they are treated differently by the law.
Every state has a “zero tolerance” law on the books, so don’t make the mistake of hopping borders to drink because you heard that XYZ state treats students differently. All states and the District of Columbia severely restrict drinking for people under the age of 21.
Many college-age students are probably wondering, why single them out? They are over 18, the hallmark of adulthood. The simple answer is because the federal government is serious about curbing deaths among young people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of all deaths for 15 to 20-year-olds are the result of a motor vehicle crash. And within that nearly one-third, about 35 percent are alcohol-related. These numbers are serious and present significant safety and health risks to young people.
As great as this goal sounds it does not answer the simple question, which is “why do all the states have the same legal limit for underage drinkers?” the federal government mandated that in order for states to access federal funding for highways, they must lower their underage BAC limit to 0.02 percent. After the government had instituted this requirement to access funding, it saw, in 12 states, a 20 percent decline in fatal single-car nighttime crashes with underage drivers. The success of this program means it is unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Zero tolerance means that you cannot drink at all. It is safer to designate a driver. However, if you were pulled over, then you may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney. A DUI charge is grave but not the end of the world.