Memorial Day Weekend: Don’t DUI
A 100 Year Problem
Since the era that cars were first mass produced, there have been issues with impaired driving. The first such offense came in 1897 in London.
In the states, the first drunk-driving law was passed in New York in 1910. Other states followed suit, eventually introducing blood alcohol content levels as standards for the crime.
We all know impaired drivers aren’t just putting themselves in danger. They also are endangering everyone who shares the road with them.
No penalty may seem too stiff for a driver who takes the life of another innocent person. There are a range of punishments that drivers arrested for impaired operation of a vehicle have to face.
The punishment for a first-time, non-injury DUI is, in many states, punishable by a minimum number of days to be served in jail complemented by a hefty fine.
Licenses also typically can be suspended for up to a year and the driver is generally put onto a type of probation for a few years, meaning another arrest during that time period could result in much longer jail time.
Drivers with prior DUI convictions are not let off as easy. Judges are privy to prior arrest records and may take into consideration any past drinking and driving offenses.
If an arrested driver appears to be a further threat to others, more serious jail time or larger fines could be on the table. Each state is different, but penalties and fines generally are even more serious when blood alcohol content is .15 or more. (The legal limit is .08.)
One of the prevention pieces put in place for people arrested for impaired driving is DUI school, also known as mandatory alcohol education. Such programs are focused on teaching offenders about alcohol dependency and the consequences of DUIs.
These types of programs are different from state to state but can last up to 30 months for repeat offenders.
Factors in deciding the length and intensity of the program can include whether or not a driver has any prior DUI charges; the driver’s blood alcohol content at the time of arrest; and whether someone was seriously injured or killed during the accident.
Ignition Interlock Laws
One of the most recent breakthroughs in the battle against drunk driving has been the introduction of ignition interlock laws.
These are devices that are installed in the vehicles of people who have been convicted of driving while impaired. They prevent operation of the vehicle by anyone with a blood alcohol concentration above a specified safe level (usually 0.02 percent to 0.04 percent), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When installed, the CDC reports that interlocks are associated with about a 70 percent reduction in arrest rates for impaired driving,
How it Works
An offender is responsible for all costs associated with the installation and monitoring of an interlock system unless otherwise determined by a judge. System costs vary by state and interlock company. Offenders can expect to pay approximately $65 to a vendor for installation and then $80 per month.
Here is how an ignition interlock system works:
- Driver blows into the mouthpiece of the device;
- The fuel cell inside the device analyzes the blood alcohol concentration;
- If the concentration is below the pre-determined limit, the car will start;
- If it is not, the car will not start;
- The system also requires blows throughout the drive, in random intervals; and
- Anyone driving the vehicle must use the device.
State by State
Virginia is one of twenty-one states that have mandatory ignition interlock provisions for all offenses, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. The other states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.
Interlock laws vary by state. Check with your state’s department of transportation to find out the laws in your area.
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) both refer to the illegal act of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Some states classify them as separate crimes while others do not make a distinction between the two. When there is a difference between the two, DWI is generally the more serious charge. Blood alcohol concentration at the time of the event is most often the differentiating factor.
Different Types of Impaired Driving
The law prohibiting drunk driving is most commonly known as DUI. States identify the offense in different ways. Here are some examples:
- DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor)
- DWI (driving while intoxicated)
- OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated)
- OWI (operating while intoxicated), or
- OUI (operating under the influence).
Elements of DUI & DWI
You don’t have to be driving your vehicle to receive a DUI or DWI. The “operational” requirement of a charge can occur while someone is sleeping behind the wheel or driving a truck, motorcycle, car, golf cart, bicycle, tractor or horse.
Some states have tough stances on DUIs or DWIs, arresting people even if found in the car with the engine turned off and the keys in their pocket. In others, you have to be operating your vehicle on a public road to be arrested for drunk driving. Additionally, some states will hand out a DUI or DWI even if you’re on your own personal property.
Whether called a DUI or a DWI in your state, DMV.org features a state-by-state look at your specific area’s penalties for the crime. Check out http://www.dmv.org/automotive-law/dui.php for this tool. Click on a state and read more about the specific definition of the offense as well as costs, penalties, and resources in your state.
“I think I can make it.” “If I leave my car here, I’m afraid it will get towed.” “My house is only a few blocks away.” Do any of these statements sound familiar?
Alcohol clouds the judgment usually used to make big decisions — ones such as whether or not we can safely operate a vehicle.
The importance of these types of decisions is magnified when the potential for harming others is a key factor. Someone who might never soberly consider making such a poor decision may have lower inhibitions when drinking, making the same decision a tough one to carry out.
Enter the designated driver.
These helpful friends help take the decision-making out of getting home safely. If you’re putting together a night on the town, be sure to plan ahead on finding a ride from someone who isn’t planning to drink. This can include a friend, family member, public transportation, a taxi or a ride-share service.
Designated Driver Programs
There are many national initiatives aimed at promoting the act of designated driving. Here are a couple coordinated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
National Football League: Since 2009, MADD and the National Football League have worked together to launch public service announcements and conduct on-field advocacy to help spread the word that the designated driver is a group’s most vital teammate.
Ride-share partners: MADD also has partnered with ride-share services Uber and Lyft. Doing so has given people more options when it comes to choosing a safe way to get home.
Give the Gift
The next time you plan a night out with friends, why not give the gift of being a designated driver? People who decide to do so can find it extremely rewarding to know that your friends are in good hands for the night.
Volunteer yourself to get everyone home safely. You can even download a designated driver coupon on MADD’s website that you can hand out to your friends.
How to Spot a Drunk Driver
Police officers patrolling the streets for public safety are trained to look for indications of drunk drivers. These can include both obvious and not-so-obvious signs of impairment.
But what should you, the concerned citizen, do if you spot a drunk driver? How can you help police officers keep impaired people from getting behind the wheel?
Signs of Impairment
First, get to know the many driving cues that may signal a drunk driver. These can include:
- Reckless driving or weaving;
- Going left of center or driving over the shoulder;
- Driving too slowly;
- Braking erratically or stopping for no apparent reason;
- Slow response to traffic signals;
- Driving without headlights at nighttime; and
- Nearly striking objects, curbs or other vehicles.
What to Do
After you have spotted an impaired driver, it’s time to take action. The longer you wait to call the authorities, the higher the chance of someone getting hurt.
If you’re driving with someone else in the car, ask him or her to take notice of the license plate number of the vehicle in question. If you’re by yourself, try to make out the plate number and remember the main details of the car, including color, make and model.
Then pull your vehicle over and call 911, giving the exact location of the vehicle and all key information you can remember. Your vigilance will hopefully lead to safer streets.
What Not to Do
Now that you know what to do, there also are actions you should never take in the case of spotting an impaired driver.
Never try to take matters into your own hands by pulling over or passing the suspected vehicle. This could irritate the other driver or cause a collision.
It is best to keep your distance and follow the steps outlined in the section above.
It is best to stay far away from dangerous drivers to keep yourself and others as safe as possible.