Drunk Driving

buzzed driving is drunk drivingDrinking and driving effects nearly every American.  If you drive or walk (bicycle, skateboard, etc.) along the streets drunk drivers are a threat.  Maybe it is not close to you. Maybe you only know a victim.


Or, maybe you are a perpetrator.  I used to be.

Here is a drunk driving fact for you.
“Each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 3,200 are arrested.”  Over112 million Americans admit to having driving under the influence in 2012. That’s 112 million people who would probably tell you drinking while driving is a bad thing..

The average person arrested for driving while impaired has driven that way between 80-87 times before being arrested (different agencies report different numbers).

Drunk Driving Accident Video (Sensational, but not gory. Its short)

What is it?

Each state will have its own statute so the following definition of driving while intoxicated is not exact:

Driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunken driving, drunk driving, operating under the influence, drinking and driving, or impaired driving is the crime of driving a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs including those prescribed by physicians. Wikipedia

Drunk Driving Facts:

  • All 50 states in the US and Puerto Rico now apply two statutory offenses to driving under the influence of alcohol. The first (and original) offense is known either as driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI), or operating [a motor vehicle] while intoxicated/impaired (OWI). This is based upon a police officer’s observations (driving behavior, slurred speech, the results of a roadside sobriety test, etc.)
  • The second offense is called “illegal per se”, which is driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g/dL or higher. Since 2002 it has been illegal in all 50 states to drive with a BAC that is 0.08 or higher. Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their BAC is .08 or higher.
  • An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 53 minutes in 2011.
  • In 2011, 9,878 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.
  • Traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased by 2.5 percent from 2010.
  • In 2011, a total of 1,140 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,140 fatalities, 181 occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2011 was 4.5
    times higher at night than during the day.
  • In 2011, 15 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent on weekends.
  • In fatal crashes in 2011 the highest percentage of drivers with a BAC level of .08 or higher was for drivers ages 21 to 24.
  • The proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes with BAC levels of .08 or higher was 24 percent among males and 14 percent among females.
  • The percentages of drivers involved in fatal crashes with a BAC level of .08 or higher in 2011 were 29 percent for motorcycles, 24 percent for passenger cars, and 21 percent for light trucks.

From Alcohol Alert

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Effects on Overall Body Functioning:

Intoxication has varying influences on your bodily and cognitive functioning. The more alcohol you consume, the more powerful the influence will be. Expert researchers have split these effects into distinct phases that you may experience while you continue to drink alcohol. These stages are divided up based on their related BAC (blood alcohol concentration):

Blood Alcohol ConcentrationBAC of.03 to.12 (approximately 1 to 4 cocktails for an adult) – Reduced attention span; diminished inhibitions, which often can result in hazardous or illegal actions; compromised fine motor skills
Blood alcohol concentration of.09 to .25 (roughly 4 to 8 beverages for an adult) – Dulled perception; compromised short-term memory; loss of balance and coordination; diminished response times to changes in environmental surroundings; reduced eyesight; slowed psychological performance (difficulty understanding things or making decisions)

BAC of.18 to.30 (approximately 6 to twelve alcohol based drinks for an adult) – Not having control over emotions or behavior; elevated loss of balance and coordination; sleepiness; elevated eye sight impairment; slurred speech; even more decrease in cognitive performance (might be struggling to understand what is occurring around one’s self); dizziness

BAC of.25 to0.40 (about seven to 16 beverages for an adult) – Problems with any kind of physical movements; vomiting and nausea; alternating in between consciousness and unconsciousness; absence of reaction to external stimuli
Beyond these levels, people that persist with consuming alcohol may become comatose or even die. You may have noticed a great deal of overlap between the diverse blood alcohol amounts or quantity of drinks. It is because intoxication affects each individual in different ways, subject to his or her gender, bodyweight, and tolerance of the substance. It is not easy to guess exactly how alcohol will impact any particular person, and that’s why it is extremely important to be cautious while drinking.
(comprehensive BAC resource listed below)

Detecting an Alcohol Impaired Driver:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA), after an extended study which involved more than 12,000 enforcement stops established this list as predictive driving behaviors of drunk drivers.  The cues came can be generalized to the following four categories:

1) Problems in maintaining proper lane position
2) Speed and braking problems
3) Vigilance problems
4) Judgment problems

The cues presented in these categories predict that a driver is driving while intoxicated at least 35 percent of the time. For example, if you observe a driver to be weaving or weaving across lane lines, the probability of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is more than .50 or 50 percent. However, if you observe either of the weaving cues and any other cue listed in this booklet, the probability of DWI jumps to at least .65 or 65 percent. Observing any two cues other than weaving indicates a probability of DWI of at least 50 percent. Some cues, such as swerving, accelerating for no reason, and driving on other than the designated roadway,
have single-cue probabilities greater than 70 percent. Generally, the probability of DWI increases substantially when a driver exhibits more than one of the cues.


P = Probability
.50 = 50 percent

      • Weaving plus any other cue: p = at least .65
      • Any two cues: p = at least .50
      • Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position p=.50–.75

• Weaving
• Weaving across lane lines
• Straddling a lane line
• Swerving
• Turning with a wide radius
• Drifting
• Almost striking a vehicle or other object

Speed and Braking Problems p=.45–.70
• Stopping problems (too far, too short, or too jerky)
• Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
• Varying speed
• Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)
Vigilance Problems p=.55–.65
• Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one-way
• Slow response to traffic signals
• Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
• Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
• Driving without headlights at night
• Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action
Judgment Problems p=.35–.90
• Following too closely
• Improper or unsafe lane change
• Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp, etc.)
• Driving on other than the designated roadway
• Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
• Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing, arguing, etc.)
• Appearing to be impaired
Post Stop Cues p ³ .85
• Difficulty with motor vehicle controls
• Difficulty exiting the vehicle
• Fumbling with driver’s license or registration
• Repeating questions or comments
• Swaying, unsteady, or balance problems
• Leaning on the vehicle or other object
• Slurred speech
• Slow to respond to officer or officer must repeat
• Providing incorrect information, changes answers
• Odor of alcoholic beverage from the driver
p ³ .50 when combined with any other cue:
• Driving without headlights at night
• Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action

The probability of detecting DWI by random traffic enforcement stops at night has been found to be about 3 percent (.03).

I can find no direct link to this because it is a .pdf and clicking the link only takes you to a blank page and a download .pdf dialogue box opens.  Type this into Google and it will take you right to it:
G014-143 DWI booklet – NHSTA

When do Drunk Driving Accidents Happen:

From the NHTSA

When is the average person most likely to encounter a operator driving while impaired.

The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2012 was nearly 4 times higher at night than during the day (35% versus 9%).
In 2012, 15 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-impaired, compared to 30 percent on weekends.

Drunk Driver fatal crashes by time of day

From the NHTSA

DUII or DWI Arrest Chronology  (for the State of  Illinois)

An officer stops a vehicle at a roadside safety check or for probable cause, reasonable suspicion or unusual operation.

The officer observes the driver and requests a driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card.


If the officer suspects the driver is under the influence, the driver is asked to submit to field sobriety tests.

If the officer does not suspect the driver is under the influence, the driver is released with any applicable

If the officer has probable cause based on the field sobriety tests, the driver is placed under arrest for DUI and  taken to the police station. The driver is asked to submit to chemical testing of breath, urine or blood.

If a tested driver’s BAC is more than .05 but less than .08 and no drugs are found in their system, no statutory summary suspension (see page 8) will apply; however, the associated DUI charge will remain until appropriate action is taken by the court.

If the driver refuses to submit to or fails to complete testing, the statutory summary suspension will apply. A repeat offender who refuses to submit to testing is not eligible for a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP) during the 3-year suspension. A repeat offender who takes the test and fails is not eligible for an RDP during the 1-year suspension. If the driver is a first-time DUI offender, he/she may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit. (See page 15.)

If the driver’s test results show a BAC of .08 or more, or any trace of a drug, illegal substance or intoxicating compound, the driver will be issued a law enforcement sworn report notifying the driver of a statutory summary suspension.

If the driver’s license is valid, a receipt is issued allowing driving for 45 days.

** A driver may obtain additional testing at his/her own expense; the results are admissible in court.
** The offender is required to post bond and may be detained until bond is posted.
** The offender’s vehicle may be towed, impounded or seized.

See also:
DUI consequences, a Washington State sentencing grid (dated)

Who’s Drinking and Driving:

Some drunk driving facts. It seems to be a crime of inexperience and disease.  These are the groups the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports.

  • Young people:
    • At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people.
    • Among drivers with BAC levels of 0.08 % or higher involved in fatal crashes in 2010,  more than one out of every 3 were between 21 and 24 years of age (34%). The next two largest groups were ages 25 to 34 (30%) and 35 to 44 (25%).
  • Motorcyclists:
    • Among motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes in 2010, 28% had BACs of 0.08% or greater.
    • Nearly half of the alcohol-impaired motorcyclists killed each year are age 40 or older, and motorcyclists ages 40-44 have the highest percentage of deaths with BACs of 0.08% or greater (44%).
  • Drivers with prior driving while impaired (DWI) convictions:
    • Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were four times more likely to have a prior conviction for DWI than were drivers with no alcohol in their system? (8% and 2%, respectively).


Drunk driving is such a preventable crime.  It would be a rare emergency that would justify drunk driving.  So why are the 300,000 people a day doing it?

  • I think a big part of it is that, after 2 or 3 drinks, people cannot accurately asses their level of intoxication.
  • I also think we play down the consequences of driving while intoxicated. Everyone worries about getting a driving under the influence ticket but no one worries about running off the road and killing someone.
  • I think it is because our society says it is only a crime if it is over 0.08 and under that it is OK (which is only half true).  We don’t regard driving while intoxicated as a “real” crime. People at parties laugh about their drunk driving escapades.
  • How many of you disapprove of drunk driving (or just driving while impaired) but have done it yourself? Impaired can be dangerous too.
  • Has drunk driving, by you or by someone else, caused you irreparable harm?
  • Will knowing drinking and driving facts change us?

General Sources of Information for the above post:

Highly related posts on this blog:
State of Washington Sentencing Grid: DUI Consequences
How long does alcohol stay in your system. BAC levels
Field Sobriety Tests Self Explanatory
Victim Impact Panel part of penalty
Stop Drinking Alcohol Naturally
Home: Am I An Alcoholic