Events in Drunk Driving Policy Timeline

New York is the first state to pass laws against drunk driving. The example set by New York is later followed by California and other states. These first laws don't specify what level of inebriation qualifies as illegal. They merely prohibit driving while intoxicated.1

18th Amendment to the Constitution band the production or sale of alcoholic beverages in the U. S. During the next decade (prohibition) the illicit alcohol trade flourishes.

January 20, 1920 Volstead Act becomes effective. 18th Amendment and Volstead Act prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquor".

February 20, 1933
The 21st Amendment repeals the prohibition amendment, although many states maintain anti-alcohol ordinances, repealed 14 years of prohibition.

June 19, 1934 Iowa becomes one of the "control" or monopoly states and assumes direct control over the wholesale and retail distribution of all alcoholic beverages except beer. The public is required to obtain a special permit form the Liquor Control Commission and one must present the special booklet to purchase liquor (repealed May 16, 1963). Liquor stores are required to close on national, state, and municipal elections days (repealed January 1, 1972).

Dr. Rolla N. Harger develops the Durnkometer. The breath test instrument is used to determine the quantity of alcohol in a person's bloodstream.

The American Medical Association creates a "Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents: at nearly the same time as the National Safety Council establishes a "Committee on Tests for Intoxication". After conducting studies, the two groups recommend a .15 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level be set as the legal limit for intoxication. In 1960, the .15 level is lowered to .10 percent based on commendations from both committees.1

Robert Borkenstein invents the Breathalyzer. The Breathalyzer is more precise than the Drunkometer and is regarded as the first functional device available to police officers to determine whether or not a person has been drinking.1

July 4, 1963 The Class C liquor license is created allowing sales of alcoholic beverages by the drink for on-premises consumption. Counties have the local option of prohibits liquor by the drink in their jurisdictions (repealed January 1, 1972. Dram shop liability insurance becomes a precondition of the issuance of on-premises retail liquor licenses and beer permits.

Spurred by studies showing that blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) levels are accurate predictors of a person's ability to drive safety, Nebraska passes the nation's first law banning driving with a BAC of 0.10 or higher.

Robert Borkenstein and several colleagues published a landmark study on drunk driving. The conclusion was the higher the BAC, the higher the level of impairment, and the higher the possibility of an accident.

Mississippi becomes the last state to withdraw its prohibition law.

July 1, 1969 Iowa lowers the blood alcohol content limit to .10 BAC (previously the legal BAC limit was .15.)

National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse was created.

National Safety Council's Committee on Alcohol and Drugs proposed .08 BAC.
July 1, Iowa's minimum drinking age is lowered from 21 to 19.

July 1, Iowa's minimum drinking age is lowered from 19 to 18.

National Traffic Safety Administration's goal to reduce traffic fatalities to 25,000 per year.
March, Iowa lowers the speed limit to 55 MPH.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIAH) is created.

July 1, Iowa minimum drinking age is increased to----- 19.

RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) started. Iowa enacts the bottle deposit law and collects $.05 for each bottle and can of alcohol sold.

One June 25, the U. S. Supreme Court rues in Mackay v. Montrym that due process rights are not violated by Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws mandating that a drunk driver's license be removed at the time of arrest for failing or refusing to comply with a breath-analysis test.1

Candy Lightner forms Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after a drunk driver kills he 13-year-old daughter in Fair Oaks, California

Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) , now known as Students Against Destructive Decisions, is founded by high school teacher and hockey coach Robert Anastas at Wayland High School in Wayland, Massachusetts, after two students are killed in drunk driving. accidents.1

On April 14, President Ronald Reagan establishes the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving to increase public awareness about the problem of drunk driving. President Reagan introduces the first National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week in December. National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month has grown substantially since President Reagan's first proclamation.1

Congress established the Alcohol Countermeasures Incentive Grant Program, which provides federal highway funs to states that enact certain anti-drunk driving laws.1

In July, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) begins to track alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Oregon and Utah pass the nation's first laws lowering the BAC threshold to 0.08.

On July 17, President Ronald Reagan signs into law the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. The law will withhold federal highway funds from states that do no implement a minimum age of 21 for the purchase and public possession of alcoholic beverages.1

July 1, Iowa's minimum drinking age is raised to 21.

Safety Belt Law.

U. S. Office of Substance Abuse Prevention is created.

MADD creates Victim Assistance Institutes to teach volunteers how to support and serve as advocates for drunk driving victims in the criminal justice system.1

July 1, Iowa abandoned its alcohol monopoly with state run stores for purchase of alcohol.

The constitutionality of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 is challenged by South Dakota, which allows 19 year olds to purchase alcohol. The federal law is upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court on June 23, in South Dakota v. Dole.1

A $300.00 civil penalty replaces the 14-day suspension which is imposed for a conviction of supplying alcohol to a person under the minimum legal drinking age.

Kentucky Bus Crash, Ford Motor Company and others are sued by the victims and school buses.

On May 14, a bus in Kentucky is involved in the deadliest drunk driving accident in U. S. history with 27 people killed and 10 others injured.1

The Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act is signed into law by President Reagan. The landmark bill includes an amendment that give DWI (driving while intoxicated) victims the equivalent compensation rights extended to other crime victims.1

Congress passes the Alcohol Beverage Labeling Act, which requires alcohol producers to display a government warning about the health risks of alcohol on alcohol beverage containers.1

The minimum drinking age is raised to 21 years old by all 50 states.1

The "designated driver" campaign is introduced in the United States. The concept of designating a sober driver is imported from Scandinavia and established by the Harvard Alcohol Project. The Harvard Alcohol Project is a program of the Harvard School of Public Health Center for Health Communication.1

A federal law required that the following label be place on all alcoholic beverage containers:
"GOVERNMENT WARNING: 10 According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. 2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems."
Some reformers want to require that the same warning be place on all alcoholic advertising--a proposal opposed by the alcoholic beverage industry.

New five-day special license is created for festivals, fairs, and celebrations.

On June 14, the U. S. Supreme Court rules that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional in Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz.1

The week of July 4 is establish by MADD is National Sobriety Checkpoint Week.1

Air Bags to become Standard Equipment in 1998 model vehicles.

On December 18, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) is signed into law by President George Bush. The ISTEA updates the Section 410 program to be more effective in encouraging states to implement key anti-drunk driving laws.1

MADD establishes the first national Rating the States survey. The report grades U. S. states in their prevention efforts against drunk driving.1

Congress passes the Omnibus Transportation Act of 1991. The Act requires random, pre-employment , reasonable suspicion, follow-up, and post-accident alcohol and drug testing of transportation workers in safety-sensitive occupations.1

July 1, hours of selling alcoholic beverages on Sundays are lengthened from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the Following Monday. Previous Sunday hours of sale were: 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday (July 1, 1984-July 1, 1992) and noon to 10 p.m. (prior to July 1, 1984).
Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (OSAP) is reorganized and changed to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), part of SAMHSA, and NIAAA and NIDA are transferred to NIH (National Institute of Health.

The results of a Gallup survey sponsored by MADD reveal that Americans consider drunk driving to be the number one problem on the nation's roadways.1

Changes (from five to three years) for progressive administrative sanctions against license holders as the result of sales-to-minors violations.

Licensee are allowed to confiscate driver's licenses and Iowa identification cards if the licensee has reasonable believe that the license has been altered, falsified or belongs to another persons and is being used to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 1993 Fatal Accident Reporting System reveal that alcohol-related traffic fatalities fell to a 30-year low of 17,461 deaths during the previous year.1

Ralph Hingson of the Boston University School of Public Health issues a report concluding that states with 0.08 laws had experienced a 16% decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities that states with 0.10 laws.

Congress passes legislation mandating that all states enact "zero tolerance" laws by 1999. "Zero tolerance" laws render it illegal for drivers who are under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any quantifiable amount of alcohol in their bloodstream.1

Criminal penalties for sales-to-minors violations by licensee, their employees and agents, are changed from a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine ($50 for sales to 19- and 20-year olds) to a serious misdemeanor punishable by a $1,500 fine. When the violation is committed by an employee or agent of a licensee, the licensee and the employee or agent are considered to have committed the violation. Each must pay $1,5000 fine.

Drunken Driving conviction remains on record for 12 years with fine $150,000 in cases of death or serious injury.
Iowa increases speed limit to 65 mph for Interstate travel.

In June, President Clinton signs the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21), which provides incentives to states that lower their legal BAC limit to 0.08. TEA-21 also requires states to ban open containers of alcohol in cars and to stiffen penalties for repeat drunk drivers.

Iowa enacts Graduated Licensing for Teens, .02 Zero Tolerance administrative license revocations for drivers under 21.

Iowa sales-to-minors violations are increased. The $300 civil penalty for a first sales-to-minors violation becomes $500 and a $1,500 civil penalty is added to the 30- and 60-day license suspensions imposed for second and third violations.

In the spring, South Carolina become the 50th state to implement "zero tolerance" laws.1

On July 9, President Bill Clinton signs into law the Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which establishes a $500 million incentive program for states that enact and enforce a .08 BAC per se law.1

In February, New York City implements a controversial new program under which people arrested for drunk driving may have their vehicles seized on the spot, before they have been convicted in court.

Criminal fines imposed for sales-to-minors are reduced to a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $1,500 fine if the violation is committed by the licensee or $500 if the violation is committed by the licensee's employee or agent.

July Iowa enacts the .10 Drunken Boating law.

On October 23, President Clinton signs into law the Federal Transportation Appropriations Bill, which includes a measure that lowers the legal limit for drunk driving from .10 BAC to .08 BAC. Highway funds will be withheld from states that maintain the higher blood alcohol concentration level.1

June, 2002
Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division pulls Zippers ( alcoholic gelatin) off the market.

April 24, 2003
Iowa enacts .08 BAC legislation to be effective July 1.

April, 2004
An approximate 30% decrease in drunk driving deaths and highway deaths due to the .08 BAC law and a change in child restraint seat belt use.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia comply with the federal law by passing the .08 BAC per se law by July.1

New Mexico becomes the first state to require first-time DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles. A driver must blow into the device before starting the vehicle. The car will not start if alcohol is detected in the person's breath.1

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety proposes .05 BAC limit.

1Lungquist, Michelle, "Drunk driving timeline", LEADING ISSUES TIMELINES, Winter, 2007.


updated 12/29/16