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While Progress Has Been Made, Drunk Driving Remains a Major Road Safety Issue

Every year in the United States, approximately 6 million car accidents occur, injuring an estimated 2.3 million people and causing more than 30,000 road fatalities; drunk driving is a big contributor to these statistics. Despite major improvements in terms of proactive education and enforcement, alcohol impairment is still a contributing factor in roughly one out of every three fatal car accidents in the U.S., and three in ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash during some point in their life. (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association; RMIIA)

Drunk driving is a deep-rooted and persistent road safety issue that has affected millions of people, and will undoubtedly affect millions more. Many of the thousands of the people killed and injured in drunk driving car accidents each year did absolutely nothing wrong; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Currently, all 50 American states employ two statutory offenses related to driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

➢ The first statute(s) is likely the one (or rather, three) that you’re most familiar with, incorporating:

o Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
o Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated or Impaired (OWI)
o Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired (DWI)

This offense is usually applied on the basis of a law enforcement officer’s observations of an individual’s driving behavior, slurring of speech and failure of sobriety tests.

➢ The second statute is commonly known as the ‘Illegal Per Se‘ Statute. Specifically, this statute is meant to apply to individuals who operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of 0.008 g/dL. For more than a decade, every state in the U.S. has stipulated that a BAC > 0.08 g/dL represents the legal threshold for alcohol-impairment (however some studies have shown that some drivers exhibit cognitive and motor-skill related deficiencies at even lower levels).
(Alcohol Alert!)

For safety agencies, legislators, and law enforcement officials, the most frustrating aspect of drunk driving accidents is how easily they could be prevented if enough people simply chose to drink responsibly and plan ahead. If you decide to grab a few drinks after work with some colleagues, or are invited to a get together where alcohol is being served, communicate with the members of your group well in advance in order to determine how you are getting home safely before you begin to drink. If you arrive somewhere alone, and feel you’ve drank too much to drive safely, you can always ask a bartender to call you a cab, or spend the night at a friend’s house (or the house of the party host if it is a friend or acquaintance) and drive home the following morning. The laws and statutes related to drunk driving are clear, as are the risks of disregarding them; the importance of simple things like thinking ahead to prevent the possibility of drunk driving cannot be overemphasized.

With more than 20 years of experience handling car accident lawsuits, our attorneys have witnessed first hand how devastating the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking can be. Some of our clients have lost loved ones due to the negligence of a drunk driver, and others have suffered injuries that are so severe, they have irreparably altered the way they live their lives. By choosing not to drink and drive, you are protecting yourself, and you are also making a decision that will help keep everyone else on the road safe.