Administrative license suspension/revocation laws

Administrative license suspension or revocation laws for alcohol-impaired driving enable law enforcement officials to take an individual’s drivers license when that individual refuses or fails a chemical test such as a breathalyzer. Such suspensions or revocations last for a period of time specified by state law (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced alcohol-related crashes

  • Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced impaired driving

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that administrative license suspension and revocation laws reduce alcohol-related crashes (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013) and fatal injuries (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013, , ). Administrative license suspension laws can also reduce alcohol-related fatal crashes among drivers under age 21 ().

Administrative license suspension laws more effectively reduce alcohol-related crashes than laws that allow suspension or revocation only after conviction (). Some drivers delay or fail to reinstate their license after suspension; those who delay reinstatement are more likely to continue to drive while intoxicated than drivers who have had their license restored (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013). Combining license suspension with education, counseling, ignition interlocks, or treatment programs may reduce drunk driving recidivism more than license suspension laws alone (, IAS-Anderson 2006, NHTSA-Goodwin 2013).

Administrative laws for alcohol-impaired driving have not been shown to reduce employment opportunities or income for individuals whose licenses have been suspended (). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends administrative license suspension of at least 90 days (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a specified level, currently 0.08 percent, is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Administrative license suspension is allowed in 41 states (IIHS-DUI DWI laws).

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006.

Fell 2009* - Fell JC, Fisher DA, Voas RB, Blackman K, Tippetts AS. The impact of underage drinking laws on alcohol-related fatal crashes of young drivers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2009;33(7):1208-19.

DeYoung 1997* - DeYoung DJ. An evaluation of the effectiveness of alcohol treatment, driver license actions and jail terms in reducing drunk driving recidivism in California. Addiction. 1997;92(8):989-97.

Knoebel 1997* - Knoebel KY, Ross HL. Effects of administrative license revocation on employment. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 1997;29(5):595-611.

Wagenaar 2007* - Wagenaar AC, Maldonado-Molina MM. Effects of drivers’ license suspension policies on alcohol-related crash involvement: long-term follow-up in forty-six states. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2007;31(8):1399-406

NHTSA-Goodwin 2013 - Goodwin A, Sandt B, Hall W, Thomas L, O’Brien N, Summerlin D. Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasure guide for state highway safety offices, 7th edition. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2013.

Wagenaar 1995* - Wagenaar AC, Zobeck TS, Williams GD, Hingson R. Methods used in studies of drink-drive control efforts: A meta-analysis of the literature from 1960 to 1991. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 1995;27(3):307-316.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

IIHS-DUI DWI laws - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute. Impaired driving: DUI/DWI laws.

Date Last Updated

Jul 29, 2015