Many people enjoy drinking in social situations, and there is nothing inherently wrong with having a glass of wine with dinner, a cocktail while out with friends, or a beer while watching the big game. Problems do arise, though, when drinking is combined with driving. Despite efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers associated with drinking and driving and tougher state laws and penalties if you are caught driving under the influence, these accidents continue to occur, often with tragic results. Automobile accidents caused by drunk drivers pose a threat to drivers in San Francisco and throughout the country, and injuries associated with these accidents are often severe and life threatening.
Drunk Driving Statistics
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is the nation’s largest non-profit advocacy group, and works to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving, as well as advocating for laws and policies to prevent these accidents from occurring. According to MADD, one out of every three traffic fatalities that occur each year in the United States involved drunk driving. On average, someone is killed every 53 minutes by a drunk driver, and every two minutes someone is injured in these kinds of senseless accidents.
Recent estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), indicate that over 10,000 drivers were killed in accidents involving alcohol in 2013. Alcohol impaired driving accidents extract a heavy toll, both in terms of loss of life as well as economic damages. The NHTSA sites 2010 figures estimating the cost of drunk driving accidents at close to $50 billion per year, an amount that has surely risen since then. For Californians in general and San Franciscans in particular, drunk driving is a real and present danger when traveling. According to the NHTSA, alcohol-related fatalities in California are second in the nation.
California Laws Against Drunk Driving
In response to the dangers posed by drinking and driving, the state of California has enacted tough laws to prevent and discourage drivers from driving under the influence (DUI). Under Section 23152 of the California Vehicle Code, it is against the law for anyone to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater. In an effort to discourage those drivers with prior DUI convictions, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.01. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the penalties for DUI in California include fines up to $1,000 and up to 48 hours in jail for a first offense, and loss of driving privileges for 30 days. An additional DUI conviction can result in fines over $3,000, jail time of six months or more, and a restricted license requiring you to use an ignition interlock device to prevent you from continuing to drive under the influence.
The Dangerous Effects of Drinking and Driving
Many people think their driving is not impacted by the consumption of just a few drinks, but research shows this to be dangerously untrue. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, likely effects of drinking on driving ability include:
- Two drinks or 0.02 BAC: Impaired judgment and lack of coordination;
- Three drinks or 0.05 BAC: Difficulty with steering and tracking moving objects;
- Four drinks or 0.08 BAC: Difficulties with processing information and a tendency to speed;
- Five drinks or 0.10 BAC: Slow reaction times and problems staying in lane and braking; and
- Seven drinks or 0.15 BAC: Serious lack of ability in focusing and controlling the vehicle.
In order to prevent drunk driving and the injuries and fatalities caused by drunk driving accidents, the CDC recommends increased law enforcement and sobriety checkpoints, heavier penalties for drunk driving, and increased use of ignition interlock systems. In addition, raising awareness of the dangers and encouraging others not to drink and drive may help to lower the risk of drunk driving accidents.
Furthermore, if you have been injured by a drunk driver, you have the right to recover compensation in the aftermath. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney who can walk you through the legal process and help you recover compensation for the harm you incurred.