Dangers of Driving Under the Influence

Drunk driving – officially called driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) – is pretty much a common sighting in the news. In this article, we will delve deeper into this troubling issue.

What Is Driving Under the Influence?

DUI is a general term referring to the same situations that are used on other states such as: “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), “operating while impaired” (OWI), “operating a vehicle under the influence” (OVI). Similar laws are applied to boating or piloting aircraft.

The different terms use to indicate that driving a motor vehicle under the influence is illegal or operating a motor vehicle is illegal may confuse some. However, several states allow enforcement of DUI, OWI/OVI and DWI based on the operation and control of a particular vehicle, while some instances may refer to the actual driving of a vehicle.

What’s the difference between DUI and DWI?

Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to the situation where a driver is operating or driving a vehicle, farm machinery as well as horse-drawn carriages under the influence of either alcohol or drugs to the extent of having impaired motor and mental skills which can cause accidents or injury to oneself and/or others.

In a lot of states, the only difference between DUI and DWI is semantics. They are virtually the same and both pertain to criminal charges for the unlawful operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or combination of both. However, in some states, a DWI charge is specific to alcohol and a DUI charge is specific to being under the influence of other drugs or a combination of alcohol and other drugs.

Not all DUI/DWI charges are equal, either. Each state has its own specific charges for driving while alcohol-impaired but the category of charge will depend on the age of the driver, the type of vehicle being driven, the degree of intoxication and whether or not any property damage, injuries or fatalities occurred prior to you being busted.

Being under that magic number of 0.08% BAC doesn’t mean you can’t be charged, either. In some jurisdictions, you can be charged with DUI/DWI even if you are below the 0.08% BAC threshold. If you are a commercial driver, you can be convicted of DUI/DWI with a BAC of only 0.04%. If you are a driver under 21, any amount of alcohol can be grounds for a DUI/DWI arrest.

In relation to DUI, a distinction between two terms should be properly established: “Drive” refers to the actual movement of the vehicle, whereas “Operate” refers to not only the movement of the vehicle but also engaging the machine of the vehicle/motor – whether alone or in sequence – that can set in motion the motive power of the vehicle.

Here are common criminal drunk driving charges in the U.S.:

  • DUI – Driving Under the Influence (alcohol or drugs)
  • DUII – Driving Under Intense Influence
  • DWI – Driving While Intoxicated
  • DWUI – Driving While Under the Influence
  • OUI – Operating Under the Influence
  • OWI – Operating While Intoxicated and Operating While Impaired
  • OVI – Operating a Vehicle Impaired
  • OMVI – Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated

What type of vehicles can I be arrested for driving drunk?

The short answer is: basically any type of vehicle.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you can be arrested for the operation of the following if you are legally impaired:

  • Motorcycles

  • Aircraft

  • Boats and other watercraft

  • Construction and farm  equipment (e.g., backhoes and combines)

  • Bicycles

  • Horses and horse-drawn vehicles (even if the horse is sober)

How will a DUI/DWI conviction affect me?

The short-term ramifications include temporary driver’s license suspension, fees and fines, court-mandated community service, participation in drunk driving education programs, and potential jail time.

However, even after you pay the fines and fulfill your legal obligations, your DUI conviction can haunt your life for years.

Long-term consequences of a DUI conviction include:

  • A costly legal process
  • Job loss and damage to future career prospects
  • Higher auto insurance rates
  • Damage to personal and professional reputation
  • Criminal conviction on your records for years
  • Possible revocation of driver’s license

The only way to completely avoid the risk of a DUI/DWI conviction is to avoid drinking and driving. It’s not worth the risk to you or anyone else to do it.

Dangers of Driving Under The Influence

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), there are nearly 1.3 billion people who die in road crashes each year. Apart from this, about 20-50 million are injured or disabled. Road traffic deaths account among younger individuals aged 15-44. It is considered to be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide.

In the United States alone, road crashes account for over 37,000 people and over 1,600 children under the age of 15 die each year. Road traffic incidents cost the United States government about $230.6 billion each year. Imagine how much money is spent and how many lives have not been spared.

Driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs accounts for at least 40% of all reported road traffic accidents in the US, Morbidity and Mortality Reports, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Despite extensive public awareness and educational programs as well as law enforcement agencies across the nation who are visible in protecting the highways; still, there will be people driving vehicles while intoxicated.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAL) of greater than .01 is seven times at risk of being involved in a fatal vehicle crash than an individual who has not consumed any alcoholic beverage. Meanwhile, a blood concentration of more than .01 has a much higher risk.

It is possible that a person who consumes two bottles of beer in an hour’s time can have a BAL of .04. It may not be that high but is 1.4 times likely to get into a crash compared to someone who is sober.

There is some negative impact in putting the allowable level of blood alcohol level at .08 as it somehow gets the notion that drinking under the influence of alcohol below the limit is acceptable and safe.

It’s quite alarming to know the possibility of driving side by side with a drunk driver. Without them realizing the potential danger that alcohol and/or drugs may get them, they will continue to become either unaware or uncaring.

When chemicals of a substance are taken into a body, it alters many aspects of one’s disposition: judgment, coordination, concentration, comprehension, vision/hearing, and reaction.

Substances coming from prescribed medications of illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin or marijuana have the ability to alter one’s thoughts. Whether you get the euphoric effect or a depressing mood, the mind may not be able to instantly react to an upcoming vehicle or swerve without much thought.

Blood Alcohol Content and Driving Impairment

The different levels of alcohol and/or drug in the body may cause/affect the following:

0.015 – Divided attention

0.025 – Tracking and steering

0.035 – Eye movement control, standing steadiness

0.045 – Coordination

0.055 – Information processing and judgment

0.075 – Concentrated attention, speed control

0.08 – Muscle coordination

0.10 – Clear deterioration of reaction time

0.15 – Substantial impairment of vehicle control

This only shows that as the level of alcohol increases, the mood and decision-making process is affected so much after ingestion of alcohol/drugs.

Reasons for Getting Intoxicated Beyond the Limit

There may be endless of reasons for being intoxicated and getting oneself in such situation but it leaves the offender no excuse. The common reasons are:

  • Trying to fit in
  • Escaping from a problem
  • Forced by “friends”
  • Just wanted to get “high”

It should be noted that every individual convicted with DUI pose a potential jail term which will depend on how the judge will rule the case.

Statistics on DUI

Statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a very frightful number related to DUI. The numbers should increase awareness among people that driving under the influence essentially puts one foot into the grave.

  • At least 300,000 unreported drunk driving cases are confirmed every day.
  • It is most likely that a drunk driver will drive impaired for about 80 times prior to his arrest.
  • At least one individual every 51 minutes die because of a vehicular accident that involves either alcohol or drug intoxication.
  • It is estimated that about 8% of all drivers have driven intoxicated within the course of a year.
  • 8% of the drivers surveyed reported that they have driven with a driver that has been impaired with alcohol and/or drugs.
  • One in every three people is likely to get involved in alcohol-related accidents throughout their lifetime.
  • 211 children had been killed in drunk driving incidents.
  • 50-70% of the individuals who have their licenses revoked due to DUI are driving illegally without their license.
  • Kids and teens who are exposed to alcohol at an age as early as 7 years old are at least 7 times more likely to get involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lives.

U.S. Laws about DUI

Drunk driving laws in the U.S. started in 1910 wherein New York was the first state to adopt such law, followed by California and several other states. The law implemented then made it illegal to drive any motorized vehicle under the influence but there was no limit set on the level of intoxication.

In 1938, through the research done by the American Medical Association and National Safety Council, the first legally used limit for blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 as implemented. In 2000, all states were required to adopt a new BAC level at .08.

1953 paved the way for the invention of the Breathalyzer. To determine alcohol concentration, chemical oxidation and photometry are used. The device is used by blowing into the machine and it instantly measures the alcohol level in the blood.

An organization called Mother Against Drunk Drivers was founded by Candy Lightner. The death of her 13-year-old daughter urged her to start a foundation after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver on her way home. It was known that the driver had three previous DUI convictions and was just out on bail a separate incident two days earlier. MADD’s main objective is in pushing stricter legislation for those who have been convicted under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act rose the drinking age to 21 in 1984.

DUI laws aim to prevent people from driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. To determine whether a person is intoxicated, various methods can be done which includes using a Breathalyzer to measure the level of alcohol in the system, a field sobriety test, or blood tests to determine the presence of chemical substances.

DUI charges may be placed against any person who has been found to be intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. The drugs referred are illegal substances as well as prescribed medications which may lead to intoxication.

Individuals have varying degrees of intoxication. While some may feel fine drinking 4 bottles of beer and others may feel tipsy with just two bottles, the law does not abide by the tolerance of an individual to alcohol but is based on the allowed alcohol blood content which is .08.

DUI Penalties

Such DUI crimes are considered as either misdemeanor or felonies. The penalties imposed on an individual will be based on the circumstances of the case. Nevertheless, a DUI charge may result in the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment: Misdemeanor charges can result in up to one year behind bars while felony charges may be charged for more than one year of imprisonment.
  • Fines: Along with being put in prison, an individual convicted of DUI is also likely to pay a fine that ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. It may cost more for a felony conviction.
  • Probation: Probation means letting an individual convicted with DUI to serve his sentence/punishment outside of prison that lasts at least for 12 months. In certain cases, it could last up to three years.
  • Suspension of License: Anyone arrested for DUI after an individual has been proven to have an alcohol level above the legal limit will have his license suspended.

Different states impose varying rules and regulations referring to a DUI incident. First-time offenders are likely to have much lighter punishment such as:

  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Required to pay fines
  • Must attend driver’s education classes
  • Must attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or counseling
  • Must serve community service
  • May undergo probation

Individuals with subsequent DUI arrest and penalties can lead to the imposition of stricter penalties such as:

  • Car can be impounded
  • Breathalyzer will be required at home
  • Home arrest
  • Ignition interlock device on a vehicle
  • Random Breathalyzer and urine tests to be conducted by probation officers
  • Subsequent forfeiture of vehicle
  • Revocation of driver’s license
  • Imprisonment

Repeat offenders should expect to be sentenced to a long jail term of 5 years.

California Vehicle Code 23152 addresses individuals who are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The code stipulations are as follows:

  • CVC 23152(a): It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle
  • CVC 23152(b): It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
  • CVC 23152(e): It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle
  • CVC 23152(f): It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.

In Arizona, anyone who has been convicted with DUI will be charged, depending on the individual’s level of alcohol blood content.

Nevada has an implied law wherein a mandatory blood test may be given to any person suspected of operating or driving under the influence. Refusal to submit to such test is a ground for arrest.

Federal Aviation Regulation 91.17 prohibits pilots from flying the aircraft with a blood alcohol level of at least .04, or within 8 hours of consuming alcohol. This is to ensure the safety of everyone on board during the flight. Commercial pilots found to be in violation of the said regulation are immediately fired, requested to have a forced resignation or have their licenses revoked.

DUI and car insurance

A DUI arrest will stay on a driving record for up to 10 years. And with this, it would mean having to pay the insurance company at least two to three times higher than the standard fees within this period.

As previously mentioned, it would take 10 years before a DUI arrest record is deleted. However, in certain incidents, the driving record remains indefinitely. That would depend on the severity of the charge (misdemeanor or felony), as well as on state laws.

Long-Term Consequences of Drunk Driving

In the short term, people who get involved in drunk driving have to deal with the temporary suspension of their driver’s license, fines, court and lawyer fees, community service, participation in drunk driving education programs and potential jail time.

Long-term consequences of a DUI conviction include the following:

Potential Revocation of Driver’s License

You may be able to deal with your license being suspended for a short time — depending on others for rides or taking public transit — but would you be able to handle doing that long-term? A DUI conviction can get your driver’s license revoked for up to two years for your first conviction. That means possibly having to find a new way to get to work, or worse, if your job involves driving, it could mean the loss of your job altogether.

How dependent are you on your vehicle? Because learning to cope with the lack of freedom to be able to drive anywhere when you need to will be stressful. Running small errands will suddenly become big chores and figuring out how to get around without your vehicle is going to be frustrating. People who are used to driving rarely make the transition to non-driving easily.

Background Checks

That DUI conviction isn’t just going to disappear. It’s there permanently for anyone who conducts a background check on you to see. And who conducts background checks? Most employers, officials in charge of college financial aid applications and admissions processes, officials in charge of housing applications and landlords all frequently conduct background checks on the people who come to them wanting something. That DUI conviction could cost you the job, the student loan or the place you want.


How open is your boss to accommodating your schedule while you deal with your DUI? Court dates, jail time and community service hours usually aren’t negotiable. It’s up to you to arrange your schedule around your punishment, which will probably play havoc with your current work schedule, putting your job at risk.

People looking for work will have given themselves a severe handicap in comparison to other job seekers who have clean criminal records. Employers are highly reluctant to hire applicants who have DUI convictions (If you can’t even handle the simple decision of whether or not to drive while you’re drunk, how are you going to handle any decisions at work?). Even if your DUI conviction has nothing to do with the job you are applying for, it will hinder your prospects, and will probably (officially or unofficially) disqualify you outright for a position. 

Auto Insurance Rates

Have you ever watched a rocket launch into the sky? Imagine that rocket is your insurance premium because that’s what is going to happen to them if you get a DUI conviction. You will be considered a “high-risk” driver by insurance companies and your insurance rates may double or triple for several years. Some insurance companies may terminate your coverage outright.

Professional Relationships

A DUI charge alone can cause your co-workers and employer to see you in a more negative light. You can try to keep it low-key but DUI arrests and convictions are often reported in local media (often in an effort to shame the people who are arrested) and this will put a huge stain on your reputation. Your company’s policy on DUI convictions may even cause you to lose your job.

Personal Relationships

A DUI arrest or conviction brings feelings of shame and embarrassment with it and you may start to feel judged by your friends and family, especially if they start avoiding you.

It may also put a bit of a spotlight on your behavior and those closest to you might start to worry that you have a drinking problem. You may start to feel irritated or resentful if they want to “pry” into your personal life and discuss your drinking or DUI. (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you do, in fact, have a drinking problem).

Scholarship Programs

Many schools won’t accept students who have DUI convictions on their records and you may be denied any scholarships that you apply for because of it or, if you already have a scholarship lined up, you might have to kiss it goodbye.

So if you need even more reasons to avoid drinking and driving, give some consideration to the long-term consequences and how those would affect your life.

What Drugs are Most Associated With Drugged Driving?

Next to alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often associated with drugged driving. According to the data by the CDC, marijuana use among drivers is increasing. It is estimated that about 13% of nighttime and weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.

However, the exact connection between marijuana use and road crashes is unclear because studies reveal conflicting findings. While investigations have established that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana negatively impacts the cognitive and motor skills necessary to safely drive a vehicle, a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Addictions disclosed that it only causes modest reductions in driving performance.

In addition, although the research findings published in the Journal of Public Health Reports in 2010 showed a connection between road accidents and drugs, the conclusions were unclear as to the role of marijuana in those accidents. It is possible that the drivers involved were not using marijuana but some other drug at the time of the mishap.

Furthermore, a study the NHTSA revealed no notable increased crash risk that can be associated with the use of marijuana alone. It is highly probable that the reported vehicular accidents on account of marijuana use are attributable to the consumption of a number of substances in conjunction with cannabis.

The other class of drugs that have been found involved in drugged driving are prescription drugs. According to a 2010 review of deadly crashes, about 47 percent of drivers who were found positive for drug use at the time of the accident had used some kind of prescription medication.

Some surveys show that in the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of motor vehicle accidents attributed to prescription drugs. Opioids, benzodiazepines, and anti-epileptics cause side effects that include excessive drowsiness, nausea, and impairment of mental processes which diminish or affect driving skills.

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs is more common among older adults who suffer from chronic pain and need to take higher doses of pain relievers such as opioid analgesics. Mental decline and the physiological inability to metabolize the drugs quickly due to aging can cause intoxication while driving.

For safety reasons, workers who are taking prescription opioids should advise their employers of this fact so that they would not be assigned to jobs that involve driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery.

Drugged Driving and the Youth

Statistics show that vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 16 and 19. Because most teens and young adults are less experienced drivers compared to older adults, they are likely to make miscalculations regarding speed, distance, and reaction time. These factors, when combined with the use of drugs such as marijuana or cocaine increases the risks for road mishaps.

Unfortunately, drugged driving is prevalent among teenagers and young adults. According to the 2011 results of the Monitoring the Future Survey, 12 percent of high school seniors admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana at least two weeks prior to the survey.

Another study conducted among college students who drove a car showed that 1 in 6 students had driven while under the influence of alcohol or some other type of addictive substance. According to the survey, marijuana ranked the highest among the frequently used drugs. It was followed by cocaine and analgesics.

How to Deal with DUI Cases

It may seem impossible to monitor each and every individual driving on the road. On top of this, DUI drivers can only be arrested if they meet an accident, injure themselves, hurt others, or destroy someone’s property.

Getting involved in a DUI incident may be something that people may foresee but never really think that it would possibly happen to them. Then again, this is something that they have to face.

When you have been convicted with a DUI case, there are different stages which you may go through:  shock, denial, pain, guilt, and hopefully reconstruction and never looking back to how you were. This may be a difficult process since not all charged with drunk driving are alcoholics.

Those who have alcohol problems are advised to seek counseling. With the help of family and friends, they can fully recover.

Involvement with drugs may be a bit more tedious as consuming illegal substances may have already created something that is irreversible in a person’s health. Nevertheless, completely submitting yourself and being free from the substance is worth the time and effort.

Part of an effective prevention campaign against driving under the influence is the use of alcohol and drug testing procedures. In the case of alcohol abuse, for instance, digital breathalyzers can instantly determine whether a person is intoxicated with alcohol or not.

In other words, implementing drug and alcohol testing measures can prevent an intoxicated person from getting involved in a DUI accident.

Strategies to Reduce or Prevent Drugged Driving

Various strategies can be employed to reduce or prevent the incidents of drugged driving. These include the following:

Public awareness of existing legislation

Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that target drugged drivers. However, not all motorists understand these legislations or their imposable sanctions. Thus, initiatives designed to increase public awareness of the dangers and consequences of drugged driving should be implemented. Educational programs and community activities intended to inform the public and drivers of these laws should be conducted.

Also, law enforcement authorities may coordinate with communities and various sectors to pass on the word that drugged driving will not be permitted under any circumstance and that serious consequences await those who violate the “zero-tolerance” or “prescribed limit” policies.

For instance, police departments can employ more Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who are tasked to patrol certain streets or vicinities and to apprehend drugged drivers. A DRE is a law enforcement officer who has been trained to recognize the manifestations of impairment among drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DREs are trained under the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) which is coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). At present, all 50 states participate in the DECP.

License revocation and suspension laws

Several states impose laws which permit a police officer to suspend or revoke a driver’s license when he tests at or above the legal blood alcohol content. The same strategy could be implemented to deter drugged driving.

School-based educational programs

Since teenagers and young adults have been found to be involved in drugged driving incidents, school administrators could implement educational programs in coordination with law enforcement authorities and appropriate agencies to increase awareness among students about the dangers of drugged driving and to educate them about the various laws and regulations relating to the offense.

The observance of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December is a good opportunity to conduct such activities and to circulate informative resources pertinent to drugged driving.

Furthermore, a comprehensive program should include intervention strategies for identified students who show a tendency for drugged driving. Access to counseling and similar resources should likewise be provided whenever appropriate.

Mass media campaigns

Mass media campaigns can also be effective strategies to increase public awareness, promote safe driving practices, and prevent the occurrence of drugged driving. When used concurrently with community educational programs, media ads can be a persuasive tool to achieve the objective of drugged driving deterrence.

Personal initiatives

Persons who use drugs or consume alcohol on a regular basis should exert personal efforts to avoid getting behind the wheel when under the influence of these substances. They should take proactive steps to avoid road crashes.

They can either hire a personal driver, get a friend or companion to drive for them, and discuss these risks openly with their friends and trusted peers who can assist them and encourage efforts to prevent them from getting involved in drugged driving.

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