The Hidden Dangers of Drinking & Driving

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While the dangers of drinking and driving are known to just about everyone, there are still plenty of people who will attempt to get away with it. It may be that sense that it can’t happen to them or an overconfidence that leads them to believe they can drive just fine, impaired or not. The facts remain that about 10,000 people lose their lives in drunk driving accidents every year. This number accounts for a full one-third of all traffic related deaths.

Those individuals who choose to get behind the wheel while impaired will have a slower reaction time, impaired vision, reduced ability to judge distance and speed, as well as judging the movements of other vehicles. Consequences of getting caught while driving impaired include paying fines, fees, possible jail time, insurance hikes and, often, an SR22 Insurance requirement.

How Alcohol Affects the Ability to Drive

As alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the central nervous system. This includes the brain, creating a situation that makes it very difficult to make rational decisions and drive responsibly.

  • Visual clarity is reduced
  • Focusing becomes more difficult
  • Feelings of drowsiness and relaxation are prevalent; many drunk drivers fall asleep at the wheel
  • Multi-tasking, like staying in one lane and avoiding other vehicles, becomes harder
  • Failure and/or inability to obey road signs and traffic lights
  • Reduced reaction time – if the car brakes in front of you, you’re more likely to hit it
  • Risk taking like speeding as a result of over confidence

Legal Consequences of Drunk Driving

Though laws vary from state to state, if you are caught driving while impaired, you’re looking at short- and long-term consequences that will affect your life dramatically for quite a while. Part of this is the financial hit, which can be as much as $45,000. Other consequences include:

  • License suspension. Depending on where you live and if it is your first offense, you’re looking at anywhere between a 30-day and one year suspension of your license.

  • Jail time. Most states require even first time offenders to spend time in jail. This can vary between 24 hours and one week. After the first offense, minimum jail time increases considerably.

  • Fines and fees. Even for first time offenders, fines can be at least $500. Added to that are various fees like attorney fees, and court and license-reinstatement fees that can rack up to several thousand dollars.

  • Ignition interlock devices. Commonplace in many states is the requirement for the offender to have an IID installed in their vehicle. This allows for random testing of the individual’s breath to determine if they are alcohol-free. Different states have different laws, but in every situation the individual will be responsible for the costs to install and maintain the device.

  • Enhanced penalties. If, during the incident another person was harmed or property was damaged, there will be additional penalties. Enhanced penalties may also be enacted when there are prior DUI convictions, underage passenger(s) in the car, and higher Blood Alcohol Content or BAC.

  • Substance abuse treatment. DUI offenders are often required to participate in some type of substance abuse treatment or education. This is something these offenders must often pay for and can be quite expensive.

How to Spot a Drunk Driver

Being alert while on the road is imperative, regardless of the time of day or time of year. While it’s true that more alcohol-related fatalities occur at night and around holidays, they do still happen every single day. If you’re alert, you’ll be able to detect a possibly impaired driver which could save your life, their life or someone else’s. 

  • Erratic speeds. They may slow down well below the speed limit and then aggressively speed up.
  • Tailgating. Because of the impaired person’s inability to judge distance and think rationally, they may get much too close to the car in front of them.
  • Excessive speeding. Impaired drivers often drive 15-20 miles per hour over the speed limit. They feel over confident and aren’t able to correctly judge their actions.

  • Braking issues. Spatially, the impaired person isn’t able to judge how far away they are from a curb, may stop at an odd angle, they may stop too quickly and slam on the brakes at the last minute.

  • Weaving through traffic. Impairment leads to an unawareness of other vehicles, creating issues with weaving through traffic, drifting from lane to lane, over-correcting, making too wide of a turn, and even driving on the wrong side of the road.

  • General lack of awareness. Drunk drivers will have issues with processing information necessary to drive responsibly. This will lead to sitting at a stop sign even after it has turned green, slowing down for no reason, driving without headlights on, using the wrong turn signal, etc.

If you happen to come upon a person who is driving erratically, give them a lot of space and don’t try to pass them. Pull over or safely call 911 to report the vehicle. Get as much information as you can about the vehicle (make/model/color/license plate) and of course, where the car is located.

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