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Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Lower BAC Laws for Young or Inexperienced Drivers

In the United States, lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) laws apply to all drivers under the age of 21. Between states, the illegal BAC level ranges from any detectable BAC to 0.02%. In other countries, lower BAC laws apply to either newly licensed drivers or newly licensed drivers under a specified age.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force  recommends laws that establish a lower illegal BAC for young or inexperienced drivers than for older or more experienced drivers based on sufficient evidence of their effectiveness in reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

Six studies qualified for the systematic review.
  • Fatal crash outcomes: decreased by 24%, 17%, and 9% (3 studies)
  • Injury crash outcomes: decreased by 17% and 4% (2 studies)
  • Crashes in which the investigating police officer believed that the driver had been drinking alcohol: decreased by 11% (1 study)

These results are based on a systematic review of all available studies led by scientists from CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention with input from a team of specialists in systematic review methods and experts in research, practice and policy related to reducing alcohol-impaired driving.

Supporting Materials


Shults RA, Elder RW, Sleet DA, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 67 kB] Am J Prev Med  2001;21(4S):66–88.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Motor-vehicle occupant injury: strategies for increasing use of child safety seats, increasing use of safety belts, and reducing alcohol-impaired driving. MMWR Recommendations and Reports 2001;50(RR07):1-13. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to reduce injuries to motor vehicle occupants: increasing child safety seat use, increasing safety belt use, and reducing alcohol-impaired driving. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 2.30 MB] Am J Prev Med 2001;21(4S):16–22.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Motor vehicle occupant injury. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 355 kB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:329-84.

Read other Community Guide publications about Motor Vehicle-Related Injury Prevention in our library.

*PDF includes all of the information available and will not be updated.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation:
Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: lower BAC laws for young or inexperienced drivers. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: June 2000