Drunk Driving Car Crashes

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  September 18 ,
| 3 Sources

People often ask us about drunk driving car crashes and the law. In many states, there is mandatory jail time for driving while intoxicated, including causing drunk driving crashes. States enact these laws because driving drunk is such a serious matter.

Drunk driving car crashes kill a person about every 40 minutes, and drunk driving crashes injure a person about every minute. As you can see, drunk driving is very prevalent.

In the United States, drunk driving is "a major contributor to traffic crashes" and "is responsible for about one-third of all accident fatalities".

What makes matters worse is that people who commit DUIs tend to do so repeatedly. A study found that over 80% of drivers arrested for DUI had another DUI within a five-year period. The study also found that those with 3 or more previous convictions were 6 times as likely to be in an alcohol-related crash as non-drink/drug offenders. That is why most states have strong punishments on the books when it comes to being convicted of drunk driving.

In many states, there are mandatory minimum jail sentences for drivers who cause a car crash while driving under the influence. If you have had too much to drink and drive into another vehicle or injure someone, you could be facing serious jail time and fines if convicted of drunk driving.

Drunk driving also affects not only the driver, but others who are also in the vehicle. It likewise affects other cars on the road. Someone who is driving drunk can end up killing themselves and others. In fact, in 2015 alone, nearly 10,000 people were killed in an alcohol-related crash involving a DUI.

Definition of Drunk Driving

In the United States, drivers are considered to be drunk if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 %. A BAC of 0.08 % means a person has 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of their blood.

In some states though drunk driving laws do not allow even one drink for someone who is underage in order to be considered under the influence or intoxicated. For example, in California if you are under 21 then you cannot have a BAC of 0.01%. If you are over 21 then you cannot be found driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher unless it was because of prescribed medications or other legal substances which contain alcohol.

With a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 %, a person’s ability to drive is significantly impaired. They are less alert than normal and their reflexes are slowed. Their depth perception, distance acuity, and peripheral vision are impaired. Their coordination is also affected. They are at risk of causing drunk driving car crashes.

Some people notice these signs earlier than others. Some people feel the effects of alcohol within 15-30 minutes after drinking, while some may not feel it until 2-3 hours later. It can also depend on a person's weight, gender, and how much they have to eat before drinking.

The Solution to Drunk Driving Car Crashes

Drunk driving crashes are a legal matter. If a person is injured or killed in drunk driving crashes, the driver can be charged with a crime. But there are interventions that help to reduce the incidence of drunk driving.

The following have been proven effective:

  • Having special courts to deal with those charged with driving while intoxicated. These courts, sometimes called DWI courts or DUI (driving under the influence) courts, are equipped to deal with both first-time offenders and repeat offenders. They can sentence offenders to jail time, but also order drug and alcohol treatment as appropriate.
  • Revocation of drivers licenses has been shown to be the single most effective intervention to reduce drunk driving.
  • Mandatory jail sentences along with revocation of drivers licenses may be even more effective.
  • Impounding or confiscating license plates is another intervention that has proven effective. Of course, impounding the car works, too.
  • Interlock devices can be installed on a vehicle (these are devices that prevent an intoxicated person from starting a vehicle).

As you can see, there are a number of interventions that help to prevent drunk driving crashes. There are also some interventions that have been tried but that have not worked so well.

Some things have not been shown to prevent drunk driving car crashes:

  • Jail time alone. When used along with other interventions, such as revocation of drivers licenses, incarceration may be a useful intervention.
  • Hefty fines.
  • Raising the price of taxes on alcohol.

How You Can Help

There are also things you can do as an individual to help prevent drunk driving car accidents. Here are a few of them:

  • This may seem obvious, but never drink and drive. Even if you think you’re sober enough, you may not be. Drinking clouds a person’s judgment, so you may not be as sober as you think you are. If you’ve been drinking, wait a couple of hours before getting behind the wheel. A good rule of thumb to follow is one hour for each drink you’ve had.
  • When you go out drinking with friends, select a designated driver who will not drink at all. Take your turn at being the designated driver.
  • Don’t let friends drink and drive. If your friend is intoxicated, take their car keys. They may be upset at the time, but they’ll thank you for it later. Drive them home if you’re sober, wait until their sober to return their keys, or call them a cab.

How to Stay Safe on the Road

The best way to not be involved in a drunk driving crash is by not drinking and driving. Even if one drink may not affect you, there is no guarantee that it will affect others similarly. That's why it's important for everyone to plan ahead when they can't drive home after consuming alcohol at a party or bar.

The solution is prevention: By understanding how we put ourselves at risk during an impaired state, drivers can begin to make positive changes and prevent drunk driving crashes.

You Can Still Enjoy a Safe and Sober Life!

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, please reach out to a treatment provider today.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

More than drunk driving car crashes on our consequences of drunk driving page

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