Drunk drivers are a menace to society. This is evident in the 2021 statistics: 31%, or around 13,000 traffic deaths in the USA, involved intoxicated people behind the wheel.
To seek justice for these deaths, the loved ones of the victims can consult a drunk driving accident lawyer. They can best advise on how to proceed with the case, so the at-fault driver or party is punished by the law.
Meanwhile, the rest of us can focus on preventing future accidents involving inebriated drivers. This can be done by learning more about drunk driving, which is the topic this article talks about.
What is Drunk Driving?
Drunk driving is known by other terms that include driving while under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). However, they all mean practically the same thing: a person is operating a motor vehicle while under the effects of alcohol.
The law narrows that definition further by establishing a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. That is, a person is considered to be driving drunk – and can be legally punished for it – if their BAC is above the limit.
In the US, that limit is 0.08% for all states except for Utah, which has a 0.05% BAC limit. There are clamors, though, to follow Utah’s lead, as the state had a reduction in drunk driving-related fatal crashes after it changed its BAC limit.
What are the Dangers and Consequences of Drunk Driving?
The states chose 0.08% and 0.05% as their limits because, at these levels, a person could already be exhibiting the effects of alcohol:
- Impaired judgment – A driver must be alert and active on the road so they can properly judge their surroundings and anticipate other drivers’ actions. However, when a driver’s judgment is impaired by alcohol, they may be unable to do that and will instead feel confused. For instance, they may be unable to ascertain when it is the right or safe time to make a turn.
- Lack of inhibition – An uninhibited person is less alert to dangers. Thus, they may not be able to respond to danger signs on the roads or may even engage in reckless behavior (e.g., speeding) that could lead to vehicular accidents.
- Reduced attention – Inebriated drivers tend to have shorter attention span. Thus, they focus less on the road and are more likely to be distracted, which could lead them to miss danger warnings (e.g., did not see another driver make a signal to turn).
- Reduced coordination – Drivers must be quick and alert to be able to effectively respond to changes in their surroundings or sudden movements by other drivers (e.g., overtaking or turning). However, when inebriated, humans tend to become slower, weaker, and less coordinated. Thus, they may not react as fast or as properly as they should on the road. For instance, they may be too weak from the alcohol to be able to brake properly.
- Physical illnesses – Too high alcohol levels can lead to physical illnesses or symptoms like nausea, vomiting, paralysis, loss of consciousness, and even death. Worse, they can manifest while the person is driving, leading to them losing control of the vehicle and eventually getting into an accident.
Because of how dangerous drunk driving is to the driver and other road users, punishments are meted out to those who are caught. These include (but may not be limited to):
- Jail time
- Recorded criminal charges
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Impoundment of vehicle
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
- Mandatory rehabilitation programs
The specifics of the punishment vary according to the case and area. For instance, most first-time offenders may only have to deal with fines.
However, repeated drunk driving could lead to the permanent suspension of a driver’s license. Thus, the person will have lost their driving privileges.
What Should You Do When Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident?
As a person’s chances of being in a drunk driving accident are never zero, it is best to know what you should do if you are involved in one. Here are the steps:
- Stop and assess the situation
- Assist other victims, if able
- Avoid instigating conflict. If the inebriated driver or some other party is being aggressive, step back and avoid confrontation
- Avoid admitting fault or apologizing for the accident, as it may be used against you during trial or settlements
- Call for medical assistance and law enforcement authorities
- Collect evidence, including photographs and witnesses’ accounts
- Compile more evidence relevant to the accident, including medical bills or income documents
- Contact your drunk driving accident lawyer. Seek advice on how to proceed with your case, including negotiations with the involved parties and insurance companies
- Reach out to your insurance company
- Attend negotiations, trials, or settlements