State laws mandating the immediate license suspension of any driver who fails a breathalizer test have a deterrent effect on drunk driving and save approximately 800 lives each year, according to a new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study also found that license suspensions which occur after conviction of the offense have relatively little deterrent effect. The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP), is one of the most comprehensive examinations of the efficacy of drunk driving laws ever conducted. The deterrent effect of these laws, which typically allow an officer to suspend a license as soon as an intoxicated driver fails a breath test, was observable in every category of driver intoxication, from those who had only consumed one or two drinks to those who had consumed dozens.
According to the researchers, more than 17,000 individuals die in alcohol-related vehicle accidents per year. Almost every state now has immediate-suspension rules for intoxicated drivers. The nine states that do not have the rules are as follows:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
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