What is the history of drunk driving laws?

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2022 | Dui |

Like every state in the union, Oklahoma has robust DUI laws on the books. But did you know that drunk driving laws, as they stand now, are a relatively new phenomenon?

The first DUI laws

Most people credit New York with passing the first drunk driving law in 1910. In reality, New Jersey was the first state to prohibit operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated in 1906. From there, most states, including Oklahoma, followed suit.

However, for several decades, officers didn’t have a way to determine someone’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC. Arresting officers used their judgment, which led to massive problems and iniquities.

Drunkometers and Breathalyzers

Things began to change in the late 1930s when the Drunkometer hit municipal shelves. A forefather to Breathalyzers, the Drunkometer was a cumbersome contraption that didn’t offer much in the way of accuracy, but it could determine if someone had been drinking. Ultimately, law enforcement started using it, and most states set the legal alcohol limit to 0.15 BAC, which is nearly double today’s limit.

In 1953, a former police captain from Indiana invented the Breathalyzer, which offered greater precision. Subsequently, states began to adopt stricter and more standardized DUI statutes.

Legislative drunk driving updates

In 1998, federal legislators offered states monetary incentives to set a BAC level of 0.08. By the year 2000, it became the national drinking and driving limit.

Oklahoma DUI standards

Like nearly all other states, people caught operating a motor vehicle in Oklahoma with a BAC of 0.08 or higher can be cited for drunk driving. First-time offenders may be able to enter rehabilitative programs to avoid harsh penalties. Multiple-time offenders, however, can expect a jail sentence and heavy fines if they don’t have a strong defense.