Most drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country are only charged with DUI when toxicology tests reveal that they have blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher, but motorists under the age of 21 face drink driving charges for getting behind the wheel with even trace amounts of alcohol in their systems. This is because the authorities have decided to take a zero tolerance approach to underage drinking and driving. A zero tolerance approach means laws enforcement does not take intent or severity into account.
Higher accident risks
The BAC limits for younger drivers are lower because the consumption of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21 is illegal, and studies show that drivers below the legal drinking age are twice as likely to be killed or kill others on the nation’s roads. Grim accident statistics are among the reasons why Congress raised the legal drinking age to 21 in 1984. Every state in the country now has a law that allows police officers to arrest young drivers with BACs as low as .00, but most zero tolerance laws set the threshold at .01 or .02 to prevent young people from facing criminal charges for using mouthwash or other products that contain small amounts of alcohol.
The impact of zero tolerance laws
It is impossible to say with any certainty how many crimes a law prevented, but a study into the effectiveness of zero tolerance laws suggests that the approach is somewhat effective. After analyzing surveys taken and drunk driving data gathered between 1984 and 2001, a researcher from the University of Michigan School of Public Health concluded that lower BAC limits for underage drivers reduced binge drinking among young men by 13%.
Challenging BAC evidence
Certain medical conditions and diets low in carbohydrates are known to skew breath test results, which means that this evidence could be unreliable in zero tolerance DUI cases even if the equipment used was well maintained and properly calibrated. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may ask young drivers facing drunk driving charges because of a low BAC about their nutritional habits and health issues.