Alcohol Causes Car Accidents! A Informational Guide to Preventing Drunk Driving

Drunk driving, which is also called driving under the influence, is the instance of driving a motor vehicle when a person’s blood levels of alcohol are in excess of a particular limit. In many countries around the world, driving while drunk is a criminal offense. Drunk driving offenses can include just being in physical control of a motor vehicle while not sober. Convictions of drunk driving offenses can involve circumstances where no actual driving of the vehicle took place.

Consequences of Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving can lead to legal problems for the person who drives drunk. Getting caught drinking and driving can lead to the loss of driving privileges, and it might also cause offenders to go to prison. Some offenders are made to go to alcohol rehabilitation classes. Impaired driving also causes insurance premiums increase, leading to extra insurance costs for a person who has a drunk driving arrest or conviction on her record. Drunk driving can have other serious consequences because of the danger it creates for the person under the influence as well as other motorists and pedestrians on the road.

A person who is driving drunk will have poor coordination on the road, disorientation while driving, and even blackouts behind the wheel. A person who drives drunk may also be an alcoholic, meaning that his or her long-term results of abusing alcohol can include cirrhosis, peptic ulcers and heart disease. Millions of people are killed each year due to drunk driving, and the property damage that occurs as a direct result of drunk driving exceeds $1 billion.

Danger of Drunk Drivers (PDF)

Legal consequences of drinking and driving

The results of drunk driving are also serious from a legal standpoint, with the offending driver potentially losing his or her license and getting a criminal record. The legal consequences of drinking and driving depend largely on the state where the state takes place. For instance, some states have two statutory offenses related to drunk driving: driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol concentration. Some states even have lesser charges for driving with a BAC level of 0.05%. Further, there are zero tolerance laws for drivers under the legal drinking age. In all of the U.S., the license of those who have any detectable amount of alcohol in their bloodstream will be suspended.

BAC and Legal Limits

BAC is an acronym that stands for blood alcohol content. The BAC level is a numerical measure by which the drinking and driving laws are defined; although many individuals can get arrested for having a BAC lower than the legal limit. The BAC level is usually determined through a simple measure of the alcohol in a person’s blood by weight. In the US, it is illegal for a motorist to have a BAC reading of greater than 0.08%; this applies to all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. A BAC number can vary based on many factors including gender, height, and weight of the drinker,as well as the type of drink they have been consuming.

Effects of BAC

Alcohol can interact with medications, and when this occurs, a person’s metabolism can be affected, as well as the effects of the alcohol and the medication in the human body. Because of the erratic nature of the effects of mixing alcohol with some medications, a person’s BAC levels can also be affected in the ensuing turmoil. People who mix alcohol with medications can expect to see a spike in their BAC levels. As a result, they will be more impaired when combining alcohol with medications when they get behind the wheel.

Mixing Alcohol and Medications (PDF)

Difference Between DUI and DWI

DUI is an acronym that stands for driving under the influence. This charge means that a person is breathing a BAC level of at most 0.008%. This charge also means that a person is incapable of driving her car, that police will give her a ticket, she will have to appear in court, and her car will be impounded. DWI stands for driving while intoxicated, and this refers to a BAC level of 0.008% or higher. This is a more serious charge that carries with it more jail time and bigger fines.

Myths Behind DWIs

Statistics on drinking and driving

Some of the statistics on drinking and driving are shocking to say the least, and they also remind people how important it is not to make a horrendous misjudgment by drinking and driving. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 10,839 people will die in crashes where drunk driving is a factor; that translates to about one human being dying every 50 minutes due to drunk driving. Furthermore, drunk driving also is expensive: It costs the average adult American $500 per year. The prognosis for people on the roads is also not good. According to MADD, one in three adults will actually be involved in a car crash where alcohol was a factor.

Preventing Drunk Driving

The designated driver is tasked with providing the ride home for other people who have consumed alcohol at a social get-together. With the distinction of designated driver comes the implicit understanding and expectation that he or she is not to consume any alcohol for the occasion. The person should be chosen as the designated driver before the evening of social function starts, so there is no confusion or problem with a non-impaired motorist driving home people at the end of the evening. Also, arranging a stay at the host's house may be an option, so no one has to worry about driving while impaired.

Preventing Drunk Driving

Public transportation is another safe alternative to drunk driving. Public transportation provides an excellent way for people to get home without having to drive after having drinks at a social gathering. A cab can also provide safe transportation home after people have had some drinks while out on the town. Although cab rides cost significantly more than a bus or subway, a drunk driving offense can cost exponentially more than any of these transportation options.

30 Ways to Stop Drunk Driving (PDF)

To learn more about impaired driving and alcohol visit these links:

Alcohol Facts and Information

NCSC's Driving Impaired Resource Guide

How Breathalyzers Work

Q&As: Alcohol – Deterrence and Enforcement

Signs of Problem Drinking

DUI/DWI Laws By State

Stop Impaired Driving

Statistics Involving Drunk Driving

Drunk Driving Link Page

A Havard study on Students and Drinking and Driving (PDF)

Simulator of Drunk Driving

Information on Drunk Driving by the Indiana University Police Department

Drinking and Driving Laws in Other Countries

NCJRS Impaired Driving Prevention Materials

Drunk Driving Fatalities and Population Change

Drunk Driving Resource Links

University of Maryland Medical Center's Alcoholism Article