Drunk driving occurs when a person takes in more alcohol than their body can absorb causing them to become intoxicated after which he or she chooses to operate a motor vehicle in an impaired condition. The moniker varies from state to state. It can be identified as DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), or OUIL (operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor). The call letters are not important (after all a rose by any other name is still a rose) unless, of course, they are connected with your name. When this happens then they spell trouble.
Every 39 minutes another person loses their life in drunken driving accidents. That’s roughly 13,500 human beings each year – about the population of a small berg that dots the countryside of any state in the nation. A decade ago that number was smaller than it is today! It is difficult to believe that despite factors such as the aggressive public service campaign financed by a variety of concerned organizations, greater legal and financial penalties for those caught drinking and driving, and a highly increased awareness by law enforcement officials have done nothing to abate the statistics. (This reality simply addles the mind. ) Let’s take a closer look at the laws and statistics on the books in Texas.
Drivers with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 are considered to be intoxicated and driving drunk. A driver convicted of the offense for the first time has a mandatory license suspension of 90 days, a second offense and suspension time increases to 180 days. The same holds true for a third offense. In addition, there is a mandatory jail sentence for anyone who has been convicted of drunk driving two times (or more). Vehicles will be confiscated after a third conviction and there will be no availability of a hardship license.
In a recent year available data reveals trends in drunk driving. For instance, one third of the drivers killed in a single year from driving drunk fell between the ages of 21 to 24, another third between the ages of 25-34 and the final third were between the ages of 35-44. It would appear that people heading into middle age are more sensible about taking chances with driving and drinking. The question is how to impose that same integrity and caution into the other three age categories.
Another startling fact about drunk driving is that men are four times more likely to be arrested for drunk driving than women. Too, traffic deaths at night are four times more likely to be caused by a drunk driver than during the day. (This would lead one to think twice about running out for milk at 9:00 at night. ) Finally, the average blood alcohol content level of a drunk driver who kills someone in an auto accident is 1.6 – double the legal threshold for someone to be charged with drunk driving.
The state of Texas, and many others, has a zero-tolerance law on the books. These laws are intended specifically for minors who are driving. Zero-tolerance means that minors must have a blood alcohol content level of 0.00. There can be no alcohol in the system of a minor at all. If this happens the minor is subject to stiffer penalties and consequences. Why? First, it is unlawful for minors to ingest alcohol (although, realistically, drinking and minors is a significant problem everywhere and a topic for another time). Secondly, driving is a complicated task that requires the full attention of the driver. Many difficult skills such as entering the freeway from a ramp and passing a semi truck at seventy miles an hour take multiple tries to perform them with ease and confidence. Therefore minors do not need any distractions. In the end, drinking and driving is illegal and, frankly, with the plethora of information meant to dissuade one from engaging in the activity, stupid.
How does alcohol affect the body and impair driving? When you drink alcohol it has to pass through your stomach and small intestine before entering the bloodstream and traveling to all parts of your body. When you drink more alcohol than your body can absorb naturally your brain begins to relax and your judgment becomes impaired. After your system is saturated with alcohol – in other words, when you’re drunk – this affects your reaction time, vision, balance and coordination. At a party this might be amusing – behind the wheel of a car it’s nothing short of deadly – and when you kill someone while driving drunk then you have murdered them.
In fact, if it can be proved in a court of law that a driver’s intoxication was the cause of the death of another person then the drunk driver would be charged with manslaughter or second degree murder and face a very long prison term. The injured party (parties are) is also able to sue a convicted drunk driver in civil court and can be awarded damages that could strip a person of their life’s savings and assets. These damages may not be dischargeable in a bankruptcy proceeding, either. So, when an adult or minor chooses to drive while under the influence they are making a decision that could affect their life and that of their own family in perpetuity.
If you are stopped by a police officer always be polite. Belligerence will only exacerbate your problems. He will ask you if you are aware of why you were pulled over. The best response to this question is “No” unless it is obvious why you were stopped. The officer will then explain the reason he pulled you over. He may ask you how much you have had to drink – he is looking for evidence that you are intoxicated and he should administer a sobriety test. If this happens and you are driving drunk – from there it’s all downhill. You can look forward to months of legal wrangling and court and lawyer expenditures. There are a thousand reasons not to drink and drive and none to support it. Don’t drink and drive.
Greg Baumgartner is a Houston car accident lawyer and the founder of the Baumgartner law firm a Houston personal injury law firm dedicated to helping victims of accidents with drunk drivers seek civil justice.