DRINKING AND DRIVING
Drinking and Driving is dangerous to yourself and others around you. Alcohol is a
depressant; it impairs your ability to drive, slows down your reaction time and causes you
to make some risky decisions that you wouldn't normally take. The penalty for Drinking
and Driving is driving Under the Influence (DUI). If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
registers over .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, you are
driving Under the Influence.
After having one drink it takes approximately one hour for your body to burn off
the alcohol. You can't depend on yourself to be able to drive after an hour because
everyone processes alcohol differently and you might even feel the effects long after
you've been drinking. Your BAC is based on; your bodyweight, how much you have had
to drink, the amount of food you may have eaten before drinking, the length of time over
which you have had alcohol, and the speed at which your own body processes alcohol
(once again, everyone's is different).
There is no way to make your body burn alcohol faster, eating food, drinking
coffee, exercising, or taking a cold shower may make you feel better but they have no
effect on your rate that alcohol is processed. The following drinks all contain about .5 oz
of alcohol; 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, 1 oz of 80 proof liquors.
If you are under 21 in California it is also illegal to purchase alcohol or transport
alcohol unless accompanied by someone of the age 21 or over. It is also illegal to drive
with an open container of alcohol regardless of the age. Of course the penalty would be
more severe if the driver is under 21.The penalty for Driving Under the influence can be
any combination of the following; prison sentence, fine or license suspension. The
penalties can be altered depending on how much you've been drinking, past history of
drinking and driving, the amount of time between your past Driving Under the Influence
charges and the severity damage if you got in an accident.
If an officer suspects you of drinking Under the Influence, you will be forced to
pull over, perform a field sobriety test and give a breath sample. The officer must have
good reasons to request the test and breath sample. If you refuse to do so it will be
charged against you later if you are convicted driving Under the Influence.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 1997) defines a fatal traffic crash as being alcohol-related
if either a driver or a non occupant (e.g., pedestrian) had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 grams per
deciliter (g/dl) or greater in a police-reported traffic crash.
Persons with a BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater involved in fatal crashes are considered to be intoxicated. This is the legal
limit of intoxication in most states.
Traffic fatalities in alcohol-related crashes fell by 6 percent from 1996 to 1997. The 16,189 alcohol-related fatalities in
1997 (38.6 percent of total traffic fatalities for the year) represent a 32 percent reduction from the 23,641
alcohol-related fatalities reported in 1987 (51.0 percent of the total).
NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 39 percent of fatal crashes and in 7 percent of all crashes in 1997.
The 16,189 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes during 1997 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 32
More than 327,000 persons were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present -- an average of
one person injured approximately every 2 minutes.
Approximately 1.5 million drivers were arrested in 1996 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an
arrest rate of 1 for every 122 licensed drivers in the United States (1997 data not yet available).
About 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.
In 1997, 30 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or nonoccupant had a BAC of
0.10 g/dl or greater. More than 68.5 of the 12,704 people killed in such crashes were themselves intoxicated. The
remaining 31.5 were passengers, nonintoxicated drivers, or nonintoxicated nonoccupants.
The rate of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is 3.5 times as high at night as during the day (59.8 percent vs. 17.0
percent). For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate is 4.9 times as high at night (15 percent vs. 3 percent).
In 1997, 29 percent of all fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-related, compared to 52 percent on weekends.
For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate was 5 percent during the week and 12 percent during the weekend.
From 1987 to 1997, intoxication rates decreased for drivers of all age groups involved in fatal crashes. Drivers 16 to 20
years old experienced the largest decrease in intoxication rates (32 percent), followed by drivers over 64 years old (27
The highest intoxication rates in fatal crashes in 1997 were recorded for drivers 21-24 years old (26.3 percent),
followed by ages 25-34 (23.8 percent) and 35-44 (22.1 percent).
Intoxication rates for drivers in fatal crashes in 1997 were highest for motorcycle operators (27.9 percent) and lowest
for drivers of large trucks (1.1 percent). The intoxication rate for drivers of light trucks was higher than that for passenger
car drivers (20.2 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively).
Safety belts were used by only 18.5 percent of the fatally injured intoxicated drivers (BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater),
compared to 31.8 percent of fatally injured impaired drivers (BAC between 0.01 g/dl and 0.09 g/dl) and 47.5 percen t
of fatally injured sober drivers.
Fatally injured drivers with BAC levels of 0.10 g/dl or greater were seven times as likely to have a prior conviction for
driving while intoxicated compared to fatally injured sober drivers (11.3 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively).
Nearly one-third (33 percent) of all pedestrians 16 years of age or older killed in traffic crashes in 1997 were
intoxicated. By age group, the percentages ranged from a low of 9.3 percent for pedestrians 65 and over to a high of
49.8 percent for those 25 to 34 years old.
The driver, pedestrian, or both were intoxicated in 37 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 1997. In these crashes,
the intoxication rate for pedestrians was more than double the rate for drivers --29.5 percent and 12.5 percent,
respectively. Both the pedestrian and the driver were intoxicated in 5.3 percent of the crashes that resulted in a
All states and the District of Columbia now have 21-year-old minimum drinking age laws. NHTSA estimates that these
laws have reduced traffic fatalities involving drivers 18 to 20 years old by 13 percent and have saved an estimated
17,359 lives since 1975. In 1997, an estimated 846 lives were saved by minimum drinking age laws.
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