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 and a temporary permit to drive. Suspension or revocation periods vary by state, from seven days to one year (IIHS-Alcohol enforcement).

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) and fatal and non-fatal injuries (NHTSA-Goodwin 2013, Fell 2017, Sen 2010*, Asbridge 2009*). 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 California, the passage of a license suspension law reduced alcohol-related car accidents and drunk driving (Campostrini 2006). A South Korea-based study indicates that the experience of a prior license suspension or revocation 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). 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*).

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 percent 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 percent (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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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