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Was drunk driving ever legal?

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2021 | Drunk Driving Charges

Over the centuries, people have enjoyed drinking as a way to relax and unwind from the day. Along with a history of drinking, there is an equal history of people having too much to drink and finding themselves in trouble.

In the United States, the first drunk driving laws went on the books in 1910 in New York. As time went on, more states added drunk driving laws, too. However, some states did not introduce drunk driving laws until several years later.

Here’s what you should know about the history of laws against drunk driving.

Was it ever legal?

Before the first law in 1910, drunk driving was not a matter of legal or illegal; it was a question of whether you harmed people or property. For example, the first arrest of a drunk driver was in London in 1897. The arrest was not solely because the driver was drunk but because he crashed into a building while drunk.

As people began seeing the correlation of drunkenness to poor driving skills, they began seeking legislation to encourage people not to drive after drinking. While New York was the first, other states, like Texas (1987), adopted drunk driving laws much later.

Measuring drunkenness

Along with drunk driving laws came a need to determine whether a driver was intoxicated. Fifteen years passed from the first drunk driving law to the invention of the Drunkometer.

In 1936, Dr. Harger invented a balloon-like device that would measure a person’s level of intoxication. Later, in 1953, Robert Borkenstein, who collaborated with Dr. Harger, developed the Breathalyzer, an early form of the device police use today.

Marketing the danger

While there were drunk driving laws on the books in most states, many people were still not aware of the danger of drunk driving or the consequences that could follow. In the late 1970s, public awareness campaigns helped people understand the impact drunk driving could have on public safety.

Drunk driving is dangerous. Like all states, South Carolina has serious consequences for people who drink and drive.

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