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Impaired Driving (Alcohol and Drugs)

Image shows a collage of safe drivers, and father's return home, and keys being handed to a sober driver. Text reads "For the you who cares about others."

Check out our new Drive Well Vermont website.

If you use alcohol or drugs your ability to drive will be impaired—which makes it unsafe for you, and others, to be on our roads. So make the right decision about driving, and alcohol and drugs. Plan ahead. Use a designated driver or public transportation to make sure you arrive safely. And Drive Well, Vermont.

Plan ahead if you are using alcohol or drugs so you can arrive safely. And Drive Well, Vermont.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is not only dangerous, it's also illegal - and the State Highway Safety Office (SHSO) along with all Vermont Law Enforcement Agencies are dedicated to enforcing the law and keeping you and our roads safe.

Impaired driving is a serious problem threatening the safety of all users of Vermont's highways. Fortunately, there are simple ways to deal with this problem. Just plan ahead if you need to travel, and make sure you have a designated driver or access to public transportation.

Any driver who operates a motor vehicle under the influence (“DUI”) will face serious legal and financial consequences.  It is a common misperception that a driver can only be charged and found guilty of DUI when they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (“BAC”) at above a .08.  However, a driver can be charged and be found guilty of DUI when they are affected by alcohol to the slightest degree even when their BAC is below .08.    

Drugs – If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.

Different drugs affect drivers in different ways. However, those that impair judgment, alertness, concentration or motor skills are considered just as (if not more) dangerous than alcohol. Prescription drugs, over the counter medications, illegal drugs, and cannabis alone or in combination with each other and/or with alcohol can cause impairment.  These substances alone and in combination can have a measurable physiological effect that impair your ability to drive and react quickly in critical situations. They can affect your reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration, and perception of time and distance. Even if you think you're good to drive, you may not be. Any form of impaired driving is illegal.  If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.

People continue to die on Vermont roads due to impaired driving. The SHSO hopes to communicate the points that Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) is illegal. Any driver who drives under the influence of drugs will face serious legal and financial consequences.  A driver can be charged and found guilty of DUID  when their ability to operate a motor vehicle is diminished or impaired by drugs in the slightest degree.  The fact that drug is prescribed is not a defense to DUID.    

When you drive impaired, you put yourself, your passengers and other users of the highways at risk of serious injury or death.  Always plan ahead to find a sober ride. And Drive Well, Vermont.



Our Efforts to Increase Awareness and Enforcement of Impaired Driving

National Campaigns - Vermont participates in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) National Campaigns for “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving ” to raise DUI social awareness and the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign for enforcement; to deter impaired driving and reduce the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. Paid media in the form of TV, radio, print, and digital ads are used to reinforce the legal, financial and personal consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol.  If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.

Checkpoints – These allow police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to see if the driver is impaired. Police may stop all or a certain portion of drivers. Breath tests may be given if police have a reason to suspect the driver is intoxicated.

Ignition interlocks – This is a unit installed in cars used to measure alcohol on the driver’s breath. Interlocks keep the car from starting if the driver has a BAC above a certain level, usually 0.02%. They’re used for people convicted of drunk driving and are highly effective at preventing repeat offenses while installed. Mandating interlocks for all offenders, including first-time offenders, will have the greatest impact.

Working with our partners  - Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication use has become a big issue in the last few years. Eight out of ten senior drivers age 65 and older take medications on a regular basis. Tools like Roadwise Rx, a free, web-based tool developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that anyone can use to explore how medications may affect safe driving.

Attitude Survey - The SHSO annually conducts a driver attitude survey. This is done to acquire attitudes of Vermont drivers about various subjects including enforcement of the laws, impaired driving, seat belt use, texting and driving, child car seat use, and general personal driving behavior.

Impaired Driving Summit – In late 2016, the SHSO sponsored the Impaired Driving Summit. This one-day summit brought together subject matter experts in the field of impairment with law enforcement, highway safety professionals, the legal community, treatment professionals and public officials.

Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) - The State of Vermont started their involvement in the DRE program in 2005 when the first five DREs were trained. The program has now grown to thirty-eight certified DREs from state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies from throughout the State of Vermont.


Vermont’s Impaired Driving Law Highlights

23 V.S.A. § 1201      “Operating vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substance.”

  •  (a) A person shall not operate, attempt to operate, or be in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway:
  1.   when the person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more, or 0.02 or more if the person is operating a school bus as defined in subdivision 4(34) of this title; or
  2.   when the person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor; or
  3.   when the person is under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug; or
  4.   when the person's alcohol concentration is 0.04 or more if the person is operating a commercial motor vehicle as defined in subdivision 4103(4) of this title.
  • (c) A person shall not operate, attempt to operate, or be in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway and be involved in an accident or collision resulting in serious bodily injury or death to another and refuse a law enforcement officer's reasonable request under the circumstances for an evidentiary breath test where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person has any amount of alcohol in the system.
  • (d)(1) A person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section when the person's alcohol concentration is proven to be 0.16 or more shall not, for three years from the date of the conviction for which the person's alcohol concentration is 0.16 or more, operate, attempt to operate, or be in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway when the person's alcohol concentration is 0.02 or more. The prohibition imposed by this subsection shall be in addition to any other penalties imposed by law.


23 V.S.A. § 1200      Definitions

  •  "Alcohol concentration" means

(A)  the number of grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or

(B)  the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

  • "Drug" means:

(A) a regulated drug as defined in 18 V.S.A. § 4201;  or
(B) any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person so as to impair, noticeably and appreciably, a person's ability to drive a vehicle safely.

  •  "Evidentiary test" means a breath or blood test which indicates the person's alcohol concentration or the presence of other drug and which is intended to be introduced as evidence.
  • "Intoxicating liquor" includes alcohol, malt beverages, spirituous liquors and vinous beverages, as defined in 7 V.S.A. § 2, and any beverage or liquid containing any of them.
  • "Law enforcement officer" means a law enforcement officer who has been certified by the Criminal Justice Training Council pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2358.
  •   "Vehicle" means a motor vehicle as defined in section 4 of this title, and when on a public highway:

(A) a snowmobile as defined in section 3201 of this title; and
(B) an all-terrain vehicle as defined in section 3501 of this title.

The Consequences of DUI or DUID:

  • Loss of your driver's license
  • Pay an average of $6,500.00 in fines, court costs, and attorney fees, as well as approximately $4,000 in lost wages
  • You could be imprisoned for up to two years for the first offense, or longer for any subsequent offenses, or if death results.
  • Mandated alcohol/and drug counseling at a cost to you of $500.00 - $1000.00
  • Mandated Ignition Interlock device for your car at a cost to you of $60.00 to $100.00 to install and additionally $75.00 to $100.00 for monthly monitoring
  • Pay significantly higher auto insurance premiums, the first year after getting a DUI your car insurance premiums increase by 45% to 60%

The Statistics Don't Lie:


  • Vermont follows the national trends; nearly 8 in 10 (77.9%) operators taken into custody for driving under the influence are male, and 70 percent of those are first-time offenders
  • In Vermont, 212 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver between 2003 and 2012
  • The rate of Deaths by Age (per 100,000 population) between 2003 and 2012 was 3.4 in Vermont and 3.3 nationally
  • In Vermont, the percentage of adults who report driving after drinking too much (in the past 30 days) was 1.8% opposed to the National rate of 1.9%
  • In Vermont, there was 84 death due to Impaired Driving over the last five years. (2011-2015)
  • In 2016, over 2500 of those people were processed for DUI in Vermont

Breath Tests      Total       Male           Female
Test Given          2030       1478          552
Refusals               507          375             132
Total Cases        2537       1853          684

  • DUI arrests occur most frequently on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.                                                                                                          

Day of week          Total           % of Arrests
Monday                   216            8.6%                                                             
Tuesday                   209            8.3%                                                             
Wednesday           266            10.6%                                                           
Thursday                254            10.1%                                                           
Friday                       392            15.6%                                                           
Saturday                 609            24.2%                                                           
Sunday                     569            22.6%                                                            

Total Arrests        2515

  • 73.0% of Indiduals processed for DUI in 2016 were males
  • Of the males arrested, 48.5% are between the ages of 25 and 44.  
  • Those arrested who were at or above 0.16 BAC, twice the legal limit                                                                                                                                                                                              
    • 2537 total cases including refusals                                                                                 
    • 2030 unique case numbers where a test was administered                                       
    • 626 cases where at least one result was > 0.16                                               
    • 30.8% of those who provided a sample blew a .16 or greater                                     
    • 24.7% of those arrested and brought to a DMT blew a 0.16 or greater (this is out of all arrests, including refusals)                                                                          


  • Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes
  • 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license
  • The rate of deaths by gender (per 100,000 population), 2012, was 5.2 for males and 1.5 for females
  • DUI arrests occur most frequently on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
  • Males age 20-29 are most likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash

DUI arrests by age group Nationally…

Data Sources - State of Vermont Judiciary, DMV, NHTSA, MADD, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Most Dangerous Holidays 

During the holidays, the number of travelers on our nation’s roads peaks as friends and family gather to celebrate. As a result of holiday parties and gatherings, more drivers are impaired by alcohol, too. Unfortunately, fatalities resulting from accidents crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers have become so predictable that many state highway patrol agencies around the country now issue fatality estimates, which usually prove to be all too accurate. 

The “100 Deadliest Days” of summer, traffic fatalities over all the major summer holidays reported by statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Memorial Day led with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year over the period 2011 to 2015. The other big summer holidays were not far behind, Labor Day averaged 308 fatalities and the Fourth of July, 307. Teens accounted for nearly 10% of the fatalities.

Data Sources - NHTSA / CBS News

The most traveled holiday period of the year is Thanksgiving weekend, and DUI arrests are at their highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend. Thanksgiving Eve is even referred to as “Black Wednesday,” as it may be the busiest night of the year for bars. Social binge drinking (consumption of a high volume of alcohol in a short period of time) is also common at this time of year.

Additional Resources

Vermont State Police Barracks

Vermont State Police Traffic Safety

Vermont Drug Recognition Expert Program (DRE)

Vermont key highway safety laws

Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Governor's Highway Safety Association

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)


Remember, Law Enforcement officers in Vermont are trained to be looking for driver Impairment due to alcohol or drugs. Many are specially trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). These officers have the ability to detect physical signs of drug impairment. DREs are viewed as one of the most effective law enforcement tools in efforts to reduce drugged driving.

Officers are also on the lookout for aggressive and speeding drivers who - by the very nature of their risk-taking behavior - are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.

For more information about Impaired Driving and the statistics in Vermont, visit the NHTSA Data Webpage.