The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) estimates that drunk driving costs our nation in excess of $37 billion dollars a year and caused greater than 10,000 deaths in 2012. The media often portrays the issue of drunk driving as prevalent for underage drivers. The reality is drunk drivers under the age of 21 made up less than 1% of total drunk drivers arrested in New York State in 2011. Every year, thousands of people from all walks of life get arrested for drinking and driving regardless of their socioeconomic status, occupation, or education. They are lawyers, teachers, clerks, housewives, doctors and actors; they are the people next door.
In New York State the prohibitive Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) when operating a motor vehicle is 0.05. An individual with that blood alcohol level, established by a standard breathalyzer test will be arrested and charged with DWAI, or driving while ability impaired. If their BAC is 0.08 or greater they will be charged with DWI, or driving while intoxicated. The penalties and other consequences for a first time DWI offense without reduction (especially if the individual is not being represented by an attorney) can be as follows:
- Incarceration for up to 1 year in jail.
- Fines from $1,000 to $2,500.
- Suspension of driver’s license for 1 year or more.
- Conditional driver’s license after 30 days but requires $225 for a Drinking Driver Program and $75 for the conditional license fee.
- Community service determined by the courts.
- $700 for an ignition interlock device for 6 months.
- Auto insurance rate increase.
- Permanent criminal record of the DWI/DUI.
- Lost work time and possibly loss of job.
- Possible forfeit/seizure of vehicle.
Although these consequences may seem severe, they pale in comparison to much more costly and potentially permanent consequences when involved in a serious motor vehicle accident as a result of driving under the influence. Serious injuries, or even death, are common in accidents involving DWI. Here are a few tips that you can do to help prevent these kinds of tragedies or accidents from occurring:
- Always choose a designated driver before leaving to go out drinking and make sure he/she hasn’t consumed alcohol prior to getting in a vehicle with him/her.
- If no designated driver is available, find a different form of transportation like a car service, cab, a train or bus, or walking is always an option.
- If a friend or a loved one is intoxicated and you’re concerned about them driving it is recommended that you pull them aside and talk with them privately. You can kindly let them know you are concerned about them driving and offer to secure them safe transportation.
- If the intoxicated person is a stranger, it is best to approach people from their circle, instead of the person directly, and address the issue.
- When celebrating with a party at home, it is the host’s responsibility to do his/her best to keep the guests safe. A great way to secure keys is to set up a bowl for guests to deposit their keys upon arrival. At the end of the evening, if someone is not safe to drive, you can offer that they sleep over, call a cab or arrange for a sober person to take them home. It is also a good idea to offer a large selection of mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails) or non-alcoholic drinks like water, juice, and soda or fruit punch, plenty of food, discontinuing serving alcohol earlier in the evening.
It is important to remember that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep our streets safe. Upon suspicion that someone is driving drunk, the best course of action is to call 9-1-1 to prevent a dangerous situation from happening. Personal involvement should be avoided; law enforcement is trained to handle these situations.
About the Author: The following is a guest post by Brenda Abbott, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats– a non 12 step alternative to conventional alcohol and drug rehab.