Arizona passed A.R.S. § 4-244(34) in response to the 1995 National Highway Systems Designation Act stating that federal highway funds would be withheld from any state that failed to set a 0.02 alcohol concentration limit for minor drivers. A.R.S. § 4-244(34) provides:
“It is unlawful for a person under twenty-one years of age to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any spirituous liquor in the person’s body.”
In Arizona, you are deemed underage for drinking if you are less than 21 years old – even if you will be celebrating your 21st birthday in 6 hours. While other states would allow alcohol concentrations up to 0.02% for underage drivers, Arizona allows zero alcohol concentrations.
It is a fact that it is illegal for minors to drink alcohol. However, minors cause approximately 17% of all alcohol-related car crashes resulting to death every year. Around 2000 underage drinkers lose their lives while driving, one third of which involve alcohol.
Why does Arizona have this zero tolerance DUI law? Everyone knows that many people started drinking alcohol before they were 21, the legal drinking age. Chances are, most have driven a motor vehicle as well. Unfortunately, approximately one third of all fatal accidents that involve 15 – 20 year old minors are car accidents, around 35% of which involve alcohol. The percentage of alcohol-related accidents in young drivers is about twice as much as the rate for drivers above the age of 21.
There’s no doubt that zero tolerance is stringent and may seem too harsh for some people. In fact, a lot of people doubt whether the strict policy actually has a positive effect on minors. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) compared statistics between 12 states that have a zero tolerance law in place against 12 other states with no zero tolerance laws in place.
The results? States with zero tolerance laws showed a 20% drop in single night time crashes that resulted to death of underage drivers. According to the NHTSA, the biggest decrease in deadly crashes happened in states with underage alcohol concentration of no more than 0.02%. States that allow a higher alcohol concentration level for underage drivers registered less impact.
Although the NHSD Act of 1995 merely required states to set a 0.02% alcohol concentration limit for minor drivers, Arizona along with other states decided to put a zero tolerance policy in place. The law may be harsh but the figures do not lie. The difference between 0.00% and 0.02% may be miniscule but it keeps more underage drivers alive. Arizona has good reason to take the NHSDA act seriously.
When facing a zero tolerance DUI charge in Arizona, contact the Law Offices of Gary L Rohlwing and make sure your rights are protected.