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Article Summary

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is a serious problem that affects everyone on the road. The term "drunk driving" is used to describe the operation of a motor vehicle while in a state of incapacity due to alcohol or drug intoxication. The consumption of alcohol or a drug can result in reduced vision, perception, reaction, and competence. Drunk drivers kill more and more people every year.

Many states are making tougher laws about drinking and driving but that doesn't mean that people will stop doing it. Each and every day drivers are arrested for driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated as law enforcement agencies continue to crackdown on these dangerous offenders. For many of these drivers it will not be their first drunk driving offense.

It is estimated than between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, close to 2,000 people are killed in alcohol related traffic accidents. Fortunately, a combination of tougher laws, awareness campaigns, and changing public attitudes has had a positive impact on the drunk driving problem. The number of arrests for DUI decreased from a peak of 1,613,000 in 1983 to 1,033,000 in 1995. At the same time, the percentage of alcohol related fatal accidents has dropped from 57 percent in 1982 to 41 percent in 1995.

Drunk Driving Statistics

  • Drinking and driving contributed to 124 fatal crashes, 370 serious injury crashes and 859 minor injury crashes.
  • Drinking and driving contributed to 141 deaths, 555 serious injuries and 1398 minor injuries.
  • 31% of all road deaths were in drinking-related crashes.
  • The social cost of drinking related crashes was about $760 million (about 23% of the social cost associated with all injury crashes).
  • Over 80% of drivers with excess blood alcohol levels involved in fatal crashes were male.
  • In 2003, drunk drivers were responsible for killing 38 of their own passengers, 26 other drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians, and 77 of these drunk drivers were themselves killed.
  • The combination of alcohol and speed during the period 2001-2003 contributed to 19% of fatal crashes.
  • Alcohol alone contributes to 12%, and speed alone contributes to 16% of fatal crashes. So alcohol and speed are factors in 47% of all fatal crashes.
  • Over 2 million people were breath tested by Police.

Drivers may be surprised to find that penalties for DUI, even the first offense, have been increased since they last checked. Due to the efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), some 1,600 new DUI laws have been passed nationwide since 1980. Every state has adopted 21 as the legal drinking age. Two-thirds of the states have now passed Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws, which permit the arresting officer to seize the license of drivers who fail or decline to take a breathalyzer test.

Several states have lowered the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from .10 to .08 percent for adults, and more than a dozen states have passed Zero Tolerance laws. This law prohibits drivers under 21 from having any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood system. In addition to these changes, the penalties have increased for drunk driving, especially for repeat offenders. Many state legislatures have passed laws requiring mandatory jail time for repeat DUI convictions. Drunk drivers can also expect larger fines and longer lengths of time that their license will be suspended.

Even though the drunk driving laws are different in every state, there are some areas that remain the same no matter where you live. For those who hope to reduce their sentence or charge they are often wasting their time and money. The penalties that the judge must impose are mandated by state law. In some states even first time offenders may be facing lengthy license suspensions and a weekend in jail. Many states require offenders to complete some form of DUI school. However, the classes have become much more involved than just sitting in class and watching a video. Often times the offenders will need to pass a written test. In some areas, part of the DUI school curriculum puts offenders face to face with the victims of their drunk driving. They tell their painful stories of how a drunk driver changed their lives forever. Conceivably, personalizing the pain that drinking and driving can cause will make the offender stop and think before getting behind the wheel.

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