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The History of DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

The History of DUI

Alcohol has been around since the early days of man; in fact, anthropologists have discovered evidence that fermented beverages were produced as early as 10,000 B.C. As such, it stands to reason that alcohol has been combined with transportation—whether that's riding a horse or operating a ship—for almost as long. However, it's not until the advent of the motor vehicle that driving under the influence has been regulated by the government.

Early Drunk-Driving Incidents

While motorized vehicles where first designed in the late 17th century, the first modern vehicle was introduced in 1886 by Carl Benz, a German inventor. It only took 11 years after the advent of today's cars for the first drunk-driving arrest to be made in the United Kingdom. George Smith, a cab driver, was arrested by police after driving into a vehicle and admitting that he was under the influence.

Around this same period, motor vehicles arrived in the United States. While vehicles were not regulated at the start, states soon realized they could be used for taxation purposes and some began issuing licenses to drivers. Another type of regulation was also developed—that against driving while intoxicated.

There are some questions as to the United States' first DUI law. While some sources state that New York passed the first law against drinking and driving, a recently discovered article from a 1907 issue of the Detroit Free Press stated that Massachusetts had begun taking licenses from those who drive while impaired. Indiana passed the first blood alcohol content (BAC) law in 1939, which set the legal limit at .15.

History of the Breath Test

Unlike the London cabbie, who proclaimed that he was intoxicated, many suspected of driving under the influence are less forthcoming. Because of this, law enforcement needed to have reliable evidence establishing that a driver was intoxicated.

The history of the breath test can be traced back to 1874, when a scientist discovered that alcohol could be detected in breath samples. While other studies were conducted on measuring BAC, the first roadside breathalyzer was developed in 1931 by Professor Rolla N. Harger.  Known as the "drunkometer," this device captured the suspected drunk driver's breath sample and ran it through a solution that would change colors if alcohol was present.

The modern day breath test came into being in 1954, when a former Indiana State Police captain-turned-professor invented the Breathalyzer. Using complex science to determine alcohol content in the blood, this paved the way to more advanced breath testing units.

What to Do if You're Facing a DUI Arrest Today

Throughout the decades, driving under the influence has become a highly stigmatized offense. Starting with the launch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the 1980s, DUI laws continue to become more severe.

If you are currently facing a drunk-driving charge, our law firm can help. To learn more, please complete our online contact form now to schedule a time for your free initial case evaluation.

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