Administrative license suspension/revocation laws

Administrative license suspension or revocation laws for alcohol-impaired driving enable law enforcement to immediately take the license of a driver who fails or refuses to take a chemical test for alcohol (e.g., a breath test, a blood or urine test). At the time of the offense, the driver is given a notice of suspension that acts as a temporary permit to drive for up to 45 days. Suspension or revocation periods vary by state, from seven days to one year (IIHS-Alcohol enforcement). Drivers who receive a license suspension or revocation are often able to request a restricted license (also called a hardship license) that allows them to drive only to work, school, or medical appointments, with the condition that they install an alcohol ignition interlock on their vehicle for at least 6 months (NHTSA-McKnight 2008, NHTSA-ALR 2008).

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, Fell 2017, Campostrini 2006, Voas 2000*) and fatal and non-fatal injuries (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013, Fell 2017, Sen 2010*, Asbridge 2009*, Beirness 1997, Mann 2002). Administrative license suspension laws can also reduce alcohol-related fatal crashes among drivers under age 21 (Fell 2009).

Administrative license suspension and revocation laws may reduce motor vehicle fatalities for children under 16 years old (Sen 2010*). In the US, the passage of license suspension and revocation laws reduced drunk driving for all ages (NHTSA-Dang 2008, Campostrini 2006) and reduced alcohol-related car accidents (Campostrini 2006). A Canada-based study shows that a license suspension law combined with strict enforcement decreased repeat offenses of drunk driving and driving with a suspended license (Beirness 1997). A South Korea-based study indicates that for individuals who have had a prior license suspension or revocation, the experience is associated with an increased compliance period, therefore preventing drunk driving recidivism (Choi 2019*).

Administrative license suspension laws that allow suspension or revocation before conviction may reduce alcohol-related crashes more effectively than laws that impose suspension or revocation only after conviction (Wagenaar 2007*). States with administrative laws with longer suspension periods (i.e., greater than 90 days) may have lower rates of alcohol-related fatal crashes than states with administrative laws with shorter suspension periods (Fell 2017). Administrative license revocation combined with a public education campaign and strict enforcement can contribute to reductions in alcohol-related crashes and drunk driving (NHTSA-Lacey 1990). Combining license suspension with education, counseling, ignition interlocks, or treatment programs may reduce drunk driving recidivism more than license suspension laws alone (DeYoung 1997*, IAS-Anderson 2006, NHTSA-Goodwin 2013, NHTSA-Sung 2017*). However, some drivers with a suspended or revoked license appear to continue to drive illegally (NHTSA-DWI guide 2006); more research is needed to confirm effects of license suspension and revocation laws on illegal driving among suspended drivers.

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). Administrative laws for alcohol-impaired driving have not been shown to reduce employment opportunities or income for individuals whose licenses have been suspended (Knoebel 1997*). 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

As of 2019, 41 states and Washington, DC have administrative license suspension or revocation laws (IIHS-Alcohol enforcement). Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08% is a crime for drivers age 21 and over in every state and Washington, DC; Utah has a stricter, lower BAC limit of 0.05% (APIS).

Implementation Resources

IIHS-Alcohol enforcement - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute. Alcohol and drugs: Alcohol enforcement.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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.

Fell 2017 - Fell JC, Scherer M. Administrative license suspension: Does length of suspension matter? Traffic Injury Prevention. 2017;18(6):577-584.

Campostrini 2006 - Campostrini S, Holtzman D, McQueen DV, Boaretto E. Evaluating the effectiveness of health promotion policy: Changes in the law on drinking and driving in California. Health Promotion International. 2006;21(2):130-5.

Voas 2000* - Voas RB, Tippetts AS, Fell JC. The relationship of alcohol safety laws to drinking drivers in fatal crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2000;32(4):483-492.

Sen 2010* - Sen B, Campbell CM. Alcohol prevalence, alcohol policies, and child fatal injury rates from motor vehicle crashes. Contemporary Economic Policy. 2010;28(3):392-405.

Asbridge 2009* - Asbridge M, Mann RE, Smart RG, et al. The effects of Ontario’s administrative driver’s licence suspension law on total driver fatalities: A multiple time series analysis. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. 2009;16(2):140-151.

Beirness 1997 - Beirness D, Simpson H, Mayhew D, Jonah B. The impact of administrative license suspension and vehicle impoundment for driving under the influence in Manitoba. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety. Annecy, France, Mercier-Guyon (Ed); 1997.

Mann 2002 - Mann R, Smart R, Stoduto G, Beirness D, Lamble R, Vingilis E. The early effects of Ontario’s administrative driver’s license suspension law on driver fatalities with BAC>80 mg%. Canadian Journal of Public Health. 2002;93(3):176-180.

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.

NHTSA-Dang 2008 - Dang JN. Statistical analysis of alcohol-related driving trends, 1982-2005. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2008.

Choi 2019* - Choi YY, Kho SY, Kim DK, et al. Analysis of the duration of compliance between recidivism of drunk driving and reinstatement of license after suspension or revocation. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2019;124:120-126.

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-Lacey 1990 - Lacey JJ, Stewart JR, Marchetti LM, Jones RK. An assessment of the effects of implementing and publicizing administrative license revocation for DWI in Nevada. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 1990.

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.

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

NHTSA-Sung 2017* - Sung J, Mizenko K, Coleman H. A comparative analysis of state traffic safety countermeasures and implications for progress “toward zero deaths” in the United States. Traffic Safety Facts. 2017:1-10.

NHTSA-DWI guide 2006 - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A guide to sentencing DWI offenders, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2006.

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

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

IIHS-Alcohol enforcement - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute. Alcohol and drugs: Alcohol enforcement.

APIS - Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS). Welcome to the Alcohol Policy Information System.

Date Last Updated