Depending on the state, drunk and impaired driving can lead to multiple charges. You may see drinking and driving charges listed as DWI or DUI. A drunk driver charge, whether it be a DWI or DUI conviction, simply involves operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Many people do not realize a motor vehicle can be more than a car. Motor vehicles include bicycles, golf carts, jet skis, lawn mowers, boats, and more.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11,654 people were killed in drunk driving accidents with alcohol-impaired drivers in 2020. It is also estimated around 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drunk driving.
All States Have Laws for Drunk Drivers
Every state in the United States has laws that make driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher illegal. The blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures how much alcohol is in your bloodstream.
When you are suspected of impaired driving and being over the blood alcohol concentration legal limit, officers can require you to submit to a blood test, field sobriety testing, or urine tests to prove you are driving while drunk.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Driving Ability?
Alcohol abuse affects the brain and impairs your judgment. It also impedes your ability to reason and your muscle coordination. Each of these abilities is critical when driving a vehicle.
Once the alcohol levels rise in your blood, it negatively affects your nervous system. Alcohol consumption can act quickly in your system because it absorbs directly through the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Alcohol does not need to go through the digestive tract to enter your blood. The alcohol then passes into the bloodstream, where it will begin to build up until your liver metabolizes it through an extensive process.
Your blood alcohol level is determined by the weight of alcohol in a particular blood sample. A blood alcohol level of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood means you cannot operate a vehicle legally in any state in the U.S.
Many people do not understand that even a small amount of alcohol in your blood can impede your driving ability. In 2020 alone, 2,041 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes where drivers were under the blood alcohol limit.
What Are the Effects of Alcohol Based on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)?
Blood Alcohol Level of .02
- The effects of this blood alcohol level are a loss of judgment, feelings of relaxation, and an altered mood.
- At this level, you may experience a lack of rapid tracking ability, and you may become unable to perform two tasks simultaneously.
Blood Alcohol Level of .05
- The effects of this blood alcohol level are exaggerated behaviors, some loss of small muscle control, inhibition, and decreased alertness.
- At this level, you may experience problems with coordination, an inability to track moving objects, and a reduced ability to respond to emergencies.
Blood Alcohol Level of .08
- The effects of this blood alcohol level are poor muscle coordination, difficulty determining dangers, poor judgment, lack of self-control, and reduced reasoning skills.
- At this level, you may experience problems with difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, impaired perception, and a reduced ability to process information.
Blood Alcohol Level of .10
- The effects of this blood alcohol level are decreased reaction time, poor coordination, slurred speech, and impaired thinking.
- At this level, you may experience problems with maintaining a proper lane position and breaking appropriately.
Blood Alcohol Level of .15
- The effects of this blood alcohol level are pronounced muscle control loss, vomiting, and loss of balance.
- At this level, you may experience a substantial impairment in your driving abilities. You will find it difficult to focus on driving and processing information.
What Happens When You Drive Drunk?
Many people get behind the wheel each day, not realizing they have consumed too many alcoholic beverages to drive safely. Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol is dangerous and can even be deadly.
In 2020, someone was killed in a drunk driving accident every 45 minutes. Despite tougher laws, incidences of impaired driving are not reducing as rapidly as they should.
What Are the Consequences of Drunk Driving and Alcohol-Related Crashes?
When you are drinking and driving, you are breaking the law and will face consequences. Since the 1980s, the United States has been working to curb drunk driving incidents.
Charges for drunk driving range from misdemeanors to felonies. Some of the consequences of being found guilty of driving drunk include the following.
- Loss of your driving privileges
- Jail time
Many people are surprised to learn a first-time DWI offense can result in fines and legal fees of up to $10,000. Many states now require DWI offenders to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles.
Ignition interlock devices are breathalyzer units attached to a vehicle’s ignition. These devices prevent the ignition from firing unless the driver passes the breath test with an alcohol level below .02.
How to Remain Responsible When Drinking
Consuming alcoholic beverages is not against the law as long as you are of age. Enjoying alcoholic beverages responsibly keeps everyone safe. Staying responsible means avoiding driving if you are drinking.
Consider the following tips to help you avoid causing an accident or being charged with a DWI.
1. Secure your ride before you begin drinking. Always have a designated driver who will not drink any alcoholic beverages.
2. If a friend or loved one has been drinking, do not allow them to drive. Take their keys away and secure them, and call a taxi or other safe ride.
3. If you are drinking, do not get behind the wheel of a car for any reason. Call a friend or a taxi.
4. When hosting a party where alcoholic beverages will be served, ensure everyone has a safe ride home and no one drives drunk.
5. Always wear your seatbelt because other drivers on the road could be under the influence, even if you are sober.
6. If you notice impaired or drunk drivers on the road, contact the police immediately. Calling the police could save lives.
Who Is at Risk of Alcohol-Impaired Driving?
Alcoholic beverage consumption can cause anyone to endanger their own life and the lives of others. Some populations are more likely to drive while intoxicated and include the following drunk driving statistics.
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are ten times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes caused by drinking and driving than those over 21.
- Around one million high school students have admitted to underage drinking and being impaired drivers.
- The age group of 21 to 24 is the second most at-risk group for driving while drinking.
- The age group of 21- to 24-year-olds had the highest level of alcohol-related deadly motor vehicle crashes caused by an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Binge drinking is one of the most common reasons for fatal crashes related to driving under the influence among people between the ages of 21 to 24.
- College students and young professionals are at a significant risk of driving under the influence after attending parties and other social events.
Do Not Drink and Drive
If you plan on drinking alcoholic beverages, you should never get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Poor judgment and loss of control from alcohol abuse could cause a serious accident that results in death. Protect yourself and others by drinking responsibly.