According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, there are nearly 1.3 billion people who die in road crashes each year. Apart from this, about 20-50 million are injured or disabled. Road traffic deaths account among younger individuals aged 15-44. It is considered to be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide.
In the United States alone, road crashes account to over 37,000 people and over 1,600 children under the age of 15 die each year. Road traffic incidents cost the United States government about $230.6 billion each year. Imagine how much money is spent and how many lives have not been spared.
Driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs account for at least 40% of all reported road traffic accidents in the US, Morbidity and Mortality Reports, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite extensive public awareness and educational programs as well as law enforcement agencies across the nation who are visible in protecting the highways, still there will be people driving vehicles while intoxicated.
What is driving under the influence?
Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to the situation where a driver is operating or driving a vehicle, farm machineries as well as horse-drawn carriages under the influence of either alcohol or drugs to the extent of having impaired motor and mental skills which can cause accidents or injury to oneself and/or others.
DUI is a general term referring to the same situations that are used on other states such as: “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), “operating while impaired” (OWI), “operating a vehicle under the influence” (OVI). Similar laws are applied to boating or piloting aircraft.
The different terms use to indicate that driving a motor vehicle under the influence is illegal or operating a motor vehicle is illegal may confuse some. However, several states allow enforcement of DUI, OWI/OVI and DWI based on the operation and control of a particular vehicle, while some instances may refer to the actual driving of a vehicle.
In relation to DUI, a distinction between two terms should be properly established: “Drive” refers to the actual movement of the vehicle, whereas “operate” refers to not only the movement of the vehicle but also engaging the machine of the vehicle/motor – whether alone or in sequence – that can set in motion the motive power of the vehicle.
How dangerous is drinking while driving?
A blood alcohol concentration (BAL) of greater than .01 is seven times at risk of being involved in a fatal vehicle crash than an individual who has not consumed any alcoholic beverage. Meanwhile, a blood concentration of more than .01 has a much higher risk.
It is possible that a person who consumes two bottles of beer in an hour’s time can have a BAL of .04. It may not be that high but is 1.4 times likely to get into a crash compared to someone who is sober.
There is some negative impact in putting the allowable level of blood alcohol level at .08 as it somehow gets the notion that drinking under the influence of alcohol below the limit is acceptable and safe.
U.S. Laws about DUI
Drunk driving laws in the U.S. started in 1910 wherein New York was the first state to adopt such law, followed by California and several other states. The law implemented then made it illegal to drive any motorized vehicle under the influence but there was no limit set on the level of intoxication.
In 1938, through the research done by the American Medical Association and National Safety Council, the first legally used limit for blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 as implemented. In 2000, all states were required to adopt a new BAC level at .08.
1953 pave the way for the invention of the Breathalyzer. To determine alcohol concentration, chemical oxidation and photometry are used. The device is used by blowing into the machine and it instantly measures the alcohol level in the blood.
An organization called Mother Against Drunk Drivers was founded by Candy Lightner. The death of her 13-year-old daughter urged her to start a foundation, after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver on her way home. It was known that the driver had three previous DUI convictions and was just out on bail a separate incident two days earlier. MADD’s main objective is in pushing stricter legislation for those who have been convicted under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act rose the drinking age to 21 in 1984.
DUI laws aim to prevent people from driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. To determine whether a person is intoxicated, various methods can be done which includes using a breathalyzer to measure the level of alcohol in the system, a field sobriety test, or blood tests to determine the presence of chemical substances.
DUI charges may be placed against any person who has been found to be intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. The drugs referred are illegal substances as well as prescribed medications which may lead to intoxication.
Individuals have varying degrees of intoxication. While some may feel fine drinking 4 bottles of beer and others may feel tipsy with just two bottles, the law does not abide by the tolerance of an individual to alcohol but is based on the allowed alcohol blood content which is .08.
Such DUI crimes are considered as either misdemeanor or felonies. The penalties imposed on an individual will be based on the circumstances of the case. Nevertheless, a DUI charge may result to the following penalties:
- Imprisonment: Misdemeanor charges can result to up to one year behind bars while felony charges may be charged for more than one year of imprisonment.
- Fines: Along with being put in prison, an individual convicted of DUI is also likely to pay a fine that ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. It may cost more for felony conviction.
- Probation: Probation means letting an individual convicted with DUI to serve his sentence/punishment outside of prison that lasts at least for 12 months. In certain cases, it could last up to three years.
- Suspension of License: Anyone arrested for DUI after an individual has been proven to have an alcohol level above the legal limit will have his license suspended.
Different states impose varying rules and regulations referring to a DUI incident.
California Vehicle Code 23152 addresses individuals who are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The code stipulations are as follows:
- CVC 23152(a): It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle
- CVC 23152(b): It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
- CVC 23152(e): It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle
- CVC 23152(f): It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.
In Arizona, anyone who has been convicted with DUI will be charged, depending on the individual’s level of alcohol blood content.
Nevada has an implied law wherein a mandatory blood test may be given to any person suspected on operating or driving under the influence. Refusal to submit to such test is a ground for arrest.
Federal Aviation Regulation 91.17 prohibits pilots from flying the aircraft with a blood alcohol level of at least .04, or within 8 hours of consuming alcohol. This is to ensure the safety of everyone on board during the flight. Commercial pilots found to be in violation of the said regulation are immediately fired, requested to have a forced resignation or have their licenses revoked.
The Dangers of DUI
The blood alcohol content is measured based on grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. This means that an individual who has a BAC of .07 has .07 g of alcohol per 100 ml of blood in the body. All 50 states have adopted the same legal limit of 0.08 since 2004. It is absolutely zero-tolerance for individuals who are younger than 21 years old to ingest alcohol.
Statistics on DUI
Statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a very frightful number related to DUI. The numbers should increase awareness among people that driving under the influence essentially puts one foot into the grave.
- At least 300,000 unreported drunk driving cases are confirmed every day.
- It is most likely than a drunk driver will drive impaired for about 80 times prior to his arrest.
- At least one individual every 51 minutes die because of a vehicular accident that involves either alcohol or drug intoxication.
- It is estimated that about 8% of all drivers have driven intoxicated within the course of a year.
- 8% of the drivers surveyed reported that they have driven with a driver that has been impaired with alcohol and/or drugs.
- One in every three people is likely to get involved in alcohol-related accidents throughout their lifetime.
- 211 children had been killed in drunk driving incidents.
- Between 50-70% of the individuals who has their licenses revoked due to DUI are driving illegally without their license.
- Kids and teens who are exposed to alcohol at an age as early as 7 years old is at least 7 times more likely to get involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lives.
Reasons for getting intoxicated beyond the limit
There may be endless of reasons for being intoxicated and getting oneself in such situation but it leaves the offender no excuse. The common reasons are:
- Trying to fit in
- Escaping from a problem
- Forced by “friends”
- Just wanted to get “high”
It should be noted that every individual convicted with DUI pose a potential jail term which will depend on how the judge will rule the case.
Penalties for DUI cases
First-time offenders are likely to have much lighter punishment such as:
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Required to pay fines
- Must attend driver’s education classes
- Must attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or counseling
- Must serve community service
- May undergo probation
Individuals with subsequent DUI arrest and penalties can lead to imposition of stricter penalties such as:
- Car can be impounded
- Breathalyzer will be required at home
- Home arrest
- Ignition interlock device on a vehicle
- Random breathalyzer and urine tests to be conducted by probation officers
- Subsequent forfeiture of vehicle
- Revocation of driver’s license
Repeat offenders should expect to be sentenced with a long jail term of 5 years.
DUI and car insurance
A DUI arrest will stay on a driving record for up to 10 years. And with this, it would mean having to pay the insurance company at least two to three times higher than the standard fees within this period.
As previously mentioned, it would take 10 years before a DUI arrest record is deleted. However, in certain incidents, the driving record remains indefinitely. That would depend on the severity of the charge (misdemeanor or felony), as well as on state laws.
Safety of others
The death of the daughter of Cindy Lighter became the way for establishing MADD, and there are so many others who have created similar organizations to spread awareness of how drunk driving can be absolutely dangerous.
DUI does not merely endanger the life of the driver but also puts the lives of the people in and out of the vehicle at risk.
Impaired Motor and Mental Ability
Based on the DUI statistics, it is quite alarming to know the possibility of driving side by side with a drunk driver. Without them realizing the potential danger that alcohol and/or drugs may get them, they will continue to become either unaware or uncaring.
When chemicals of a substance are taken into a body, it alters many aspects of one’s disposition: judgment, coordination, concentration, comprehension, vision/hearing, and reaction.
Substances coming from prescribed medications of illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin or marijuana have the ability to alter one’s thoughts. Whether you get the euphoric effect or a depressing mood, the mind may not be able to instantly react to an upcoming vehicle or swerve without much thought.
Blood Alcohol Content and Driving Impairment
The different levels of alcohol and/or drug in the body may cause/affect the following:
0.015 – Divided attention
0.025 – Tracking and steering
0.035 – Eye movement control, standing steadiness
0.045 – Coordination
0.055 – information processing and judgment
0.075 – concentrated attention, speed control
0.08 – Muscle coordination
0.10 – Clear deterioration of reaction time
0.15 – Substantial impairment of vehicle control
This only shows that as the level of alcohol increases, the mood and decision-making process is affected so much after ingestion of alcohol/drugs.
How to Deal with DUI Cases
It may seem impossible to monitor each and every individual driving on the road. On top of this, DUI drivers can only be arrested if they meet an accident, injure themselves, hurt others, or destroy someone’s property.
Getting involved in a DUI incident may be something that people may foresee but never really think that it would possibly happen to them. Then again, this is something that they have to face.
When you have been convicted with a DUI case, there are different stages which you may go through: shock, denial, pain, guilt, and hopefully reconstruction and never looking back to how you were. This may be a difficult process since not all charged with drunk driving are alcoholics.
For those who have alcohol problems, they are advised to seek counseling. With the help of family and friends, they can fully recover.
Involvement with drugs may be a bit more tedious as consuming illegal substances may have already created something that is irreversible in a person’s health. Nevertheless, completely submitting yourself and being free from the substance is worth the time and effort.
Importance of Testing for DUI
Part of an effective prevention campaign against driving under the influence is the use of alcohol and drug testing procedures. In the case of alcohol abuse, for instance, digital breathalyzers can instantly determine whether a person is intoxicated with alcohol or not.
In other words, implementing drug and alcohol testing measures can prevent an intoxicated person from getting involved in a DUI accident.
So many people have been enveloped with fear, most especially those whose loved ones have been victims of alcohol or drug-related incidents on the road. While we continue to exert extensive action against offenders, it is best to always become someone who can show love and care for others.
A BAC of 0.08 may be too high to be the legal limit and everyone should be responsible when driving behind the wheels. To think of oneself is being selfish, but to care for others means a safer community to live in.