4 Things You Should Know About Driving Under the Influence

Driving under influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious crime, and yet it happens all too often. Every day, people lose their lives because of this. These four facts will make you think twice the next time you drink and drive.

What is DUI? The Legal Aspect

DUI stands for driving under influence, which means you are intoxicated while behind the wheel. As a DUI lawyer in California explained, the exact rules vary by state and country. Some consider it “drunk” if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08 percent or more. Others set the bar at 0.05 percent, and still others for those under 21, any amount of alcohol counts. For commercial drivers, the threshold may be even lower (0.04 percent or greater).

In 1938, a University of Denver football player named Bud Sterner got a ride home from a teammate who had been drinking. The teammate lost control and crashed into a tree, killing Sterner’s father and two other people.

The public was outraged and demanded that something be done, especially after it came out that the teammate had been drinking at one of Colorado’s new liquor-by-the-drink bars, instead of a traditional saloon. In 1939, Colorado became the first state to make drunken driving illegal.

In 1958, the state lowered the BAC threshold from 0.15 percent (nearly twice the legal limit for commercial drivers today) to 0.10 percent, and other states soon followed its lead.

What Are The Risk Factors In Driving Under Influence?

Driving under the influence increases your risk of a crash by 40 times. When you drink, water and alcohol leave your body at different rates. While alcohol is metabolized relatively quickly – typically at a rate of about one drink per hour on average – some people clear it from their bodies more slowly than others. Drivers with BACs under 0.15 are generally considered to be impaired since they face similar risks to those with BACs above 0.15. What’s more, the length of time that alcohol stays in your body is also variable and depends on several factors, including how much you’ve had to drink, your gender, your weight, whether you are taking medication or other drugs, your stress levels, and whether you ate before or while you were drinking.

People who have been drinking drive differently than those who are sober. For example, their reaction times slow down, and they tend to make riskier decisions. Alcohol also impairs your vision and depth perception, which makes it harder to see hazards on the road. To help understand just how much more dangerous DUI can be, it’s helpful to compare the risk of DUI with other factors associated with increased accident rates. For example, an increase in speed from 60 to 65 mph will result in a 2 percent rise in the chance of a car crash, and every 10 years on the road raises your accident risk by 5 percent. If you have poor vision or drive when fatigued, you double your risk of a crash. 

How Can You Know If You’re Driving Under Influence?

People who have been drinking don’t always think they’re too drunk to drive. And if your judgment is impaired, it may be hard to imagine that you might actually get arrested for DUI or DWI and lose your license. But there are some red flags you can look out for the next time you plan to get behind the wheel after drinking. These include:

• feeling dizzy or having blurred vision

• slurring your words

• having trouble walking in a straight line; and/or

• experiencing nausea, vomiting, mood swings, extreme fatigue, or irritability.

What Should You Do If You Are Stopped By Police Officers?

You may be wondering what should you do if you’re stopped by police officers for suspicion of DUI or DWI. The best course of action is to be respectful and follow these five steps:

1. Follow the officer’s instructions

2. Keep your hands where the officer can see them

3. Don’t make sudden or quick movements

4. Be polite and answer all questions honestly

5. Cooperate, but don’t volunteer information in the hopes of avoiding arrest. 

Many people believe it is smart to cooperate with officers because doing so can help reduce their charges or potential penalties. But keep in mind that even seemingly honest answers, like admitting to drinking before getting behind the wheel or failing a field sobriety test, can be used against you in court. 

Drinking and driving is dangerous. Every state has specific rules about how much alcohol can be in your blood while you drive. If you drink before driving, even just a little bit, there are serious consequences for both you and other drivers on the road. You should not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Call a cab or wait until you are sober. If you suspect someone is driving under influence, tell a police officer or your local law enforcement agency.