Drunk and Drugged Driving: Statistics & Solutions

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Last updated: Tuesday, 11, January 2022 at 04:51 PM

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Tips to prevent impaired driving

      • Assign a designated driver. This can include rotating within your group of friends so that everyone can have fun.
      • If you don't have a designated driver, get someone to drop you off, take a cab, get an Uber or Lyft, or use public transportation to get there and back.
      • Depending on the situation, if you must drive somewhere further away, you could plan where to stay for the night.

Once you are out:

      • You can use a personal alcohol breathalyzer before getting behind the wheel. There are also several online BAC calculators to help you figure if you drank too much. Remember that your BAC will continue to rise after you stop drinking.
      • If you are wondering whether you've consumed too much to drive, you probably have.
      • Make sure to eat plenty of food and drink water to reduce the effects of alcohol.
      • Remember that it is okay to refuse a drink. It is sometimes taboo to not drink or refuse to drink further. However, if you know you will have to drive, refusing that additional drink or any drinks for that matter is okay.
      • Under no circumstances should you drive while under the effects of marijuana.

What are a DUI and DWI?

DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) mean essentially the same thing. The definition pertains to a driver committing a crime by operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, endangering themselves and others. Within most states, DUI and DWI are interchangeable terms. DUI generally refers to behavior, while DWI refers to blood alcohol content. Almost every state's DUI laws define intoxication as a blood alcohol content level of 0.08.

Marijuana and DUI Laws

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2018, 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes. THC can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after use. Several studies have shown that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be responsible for a deadly crash or be killed.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is a serious criminal offense in every state. However, the specific rules behind marijuana DUI laws vary from state to state—some are more stringent than others. Overall, a DUI charge applies to any motorist who drives while impaired by cannabis. Yet, there is no standard definition of 'impairment’—different states use different standards. All 50 states have established a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. However, the 'per-se' measurement used to prove impairment, triggering a DUI charge, is not standard for marijuana DUIs.

The different standards applied by states when determining a DUI marijuana charge include the following:

      • Per Se Marijuana DUI—Depending on the state, blood tests must show a minimal (pre-determined amount) THC concentration before per-se marijuana DUI charges can be filed. A blood test is conducted once a driver is arrested.

      • Impairment DUI—Most states require persecutors to prove a driver was actually impaired while driving under the influence of marijuana. However, this is in contrast to states with per-se laws, where the presence of THC is enough to allow charges.

      • Zero Tolerance DUI—Some states implemented a zero-tolerance approach. Any amount of THC found in the driver's bloodstream is grounds for a marijuana DUI charge. This includes inactive THC metabolites detected hours, days, or even weeks after use.

Your First DUI Offence—What Happens?

DUI laws and penalties vary from state to state, but there are many similarities. When you are charged and convicted with your first DUI, the court may order the following:

  • Possible use of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
  • Possible time in jail, depending on the laws of your state.
  • A driver's license suspension.
  • Fees and fines.
  • Raised car insurance rates.
  • Community services.
  • Mandatory attendance in a drug or alcohol treatment program or DUI school.

In most states, even a misdemeanor DUI offense will require that you serve a mandatory minimum jail sentence, even if it is only for a few days. Virtually all states suspend your driver's license for a specific amount of time and issue fines.

Other impaired driving charges include the following:

  • DWAI—Driving Ability Impaired, meaning operating a vehicle while your ability to drive safely has been compromised because you've consumed alcohol or drugs.
  • OUI and OWI—Operating Under the Influence and Operating While Intoxicated, meaning the same thing as DUI and DWI.
  • OMVI—Operating a Motor Vehicle While Impaired
  • DWI—In some states, it stands for Driving While Impaired, meaning a police officer believes you to be too impaired to drive, even if your BAC is under 0.08.
  • Aggravated DUI—If you are impaired driving with kids in the car, if you are speeding, if your BAC is 0.15 or higher, or if you drive with a suspended license.
  • Felony DUI—Forty-six states have felony DUI laws, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, meaning a court can charge a driver with a felony for a second, third, fourth, or fifth offense.

The Cost of Being Charged With a DUI

The actual cost incurred following a DUI varies and depends on many situational factors. The Division of Motor Vehicles in Alaska stated the following—"For the cost of a first-time DUI, you could ride halfway around the world (12,133 miles) in a taxicab". Any conviction of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is expensive.

The following is a general estimation of expenses. It should not be taken as exact, as it is based on numerous reports and information.

      • Bail bonds fees vary after a DUI arrest and expect to be jailed initially—fees range from $100 to $3,000.
      • Car impound fees and towing fees vary significantly and range from $100 to $2,000.
      • Attorney fees vary significantly. A first-time offender should expect attorney fees to be between $1,500 and $5,000, even if the individual opts for a public defender. Costs tend to increase significantly for repeat offenders.
      • The court will likely also issue fines, and this can range from $150 to $2,000.
      • Other charges incurred include fees for probation, fees for spending time in jail, and fees for sentencing.
      • Random drugs or urine testing fees are also incurred and become frequent.
      • A DUI offender may be sentenced to community service and pay the community service fees.
      • It is not uncommon for states to impose driver responsibility fees when a person is convicted of a DUI. The fees can range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the state.
      • Typically, first-time offenders are sentenced to substance use treatment or an education class and will have to incur the fees for treatment. Depending on the type of treatment, the fees could range from $1,000 to $15,000.
      • First-time offenders will likely have an ignition interlock device installed and will have to pay all the fees, such as installation and re-calibration fees—often monthly.
      • License reinstatement fees can range from $20 to $200, and in the meantime, you will have to cover the costs for alternate forms of transportation.
      • Finally, insurance companies consider DUI offenders as high-risk drivers. Auto insurance rates skyrocket and could reach upwards of $10,000, depending on your case and the insurance company.

Overall, a first-time DUI offense can cost upwards of $25,000 to $30,000. Yet, this is all a rough estimate and does not include the financial losses resulting from missed work or loss of employment.

Court Ordered Substance Use Treatment for DUI Offenders

Most states require a person convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs to complete a substance use evaluation. In addition, many states even require the assessment as a condition of participating in programs that allow the offender to avoid a conviction. Upon a successful evaluation, the offender is likely court-ordered to substance use treatment or driver's training.

Different levels of court-ordered drug or alcohol rehab could include the following:

  • Mandatory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • Individualized counseling sessions with a therapist.
  • Group meetings with a therapist.
  • Inpatient residential substance use treatment.
  • Partial hospitalization programs.
  • Outpatient substance use treatment.
  • Sober living homes.
  • Aftercare programs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, legal pressure can increase treatment attendance and improve retention. The criminal justice system can apply pressure to encourage offenders to participate in drug abuse treatment. Typically, treatment is mandated through a drug court or as a condition of pretrial release or parole. 

Drug Treatment Centers for DUI or DWI Offenders

Most individuals convicted of their first DUI offense may avoid repeat offenses by getting professional treatment for substance use. The first step is a treatment assessment to determine the person's background, history of substance use, and the offense's circumstances. An evaluation determines the frequency and intensity of alcohol and or drug use. Numerous other factors include physical health, living situation, relationships issues, employment, finances, and criminal history.

Based on the assessment, court-mandated treatment for DUI offenders vary regarding levels of care and length. For example, this may include a brief course of treatment lasting one or two sessions or a multifaceted program lasting weeks or months. Substance use treatment has proven effective in reducing the rate of repeat offenders.

According to a study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, "Sanctions reduce the chance of repeat drinking-driving offenses, while severe alcohol problems increase such chances… When alcohol problems were controlled for, punitive sanctions did not significantly decrease the chance of recidivism. Findings suggest that carefully screening drinking-driving offenders' alcohol-related problems and providing effective treatment to those offenders who are in need of such services, constitute critical strategies to reduce drinking-driving recidivism", abstract.

Impaired Driving Statistics & Facts

You cannot drive safely if you are impaired. It is illegal everywhere in the United States, whether you are under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or illegal drugs. Driving while impaired by any substance, legal or illegal, places you and others in harm's way.

    • Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve alcohol-impaired drivers. This is one death every 50 minutes, and alcohol-related crashes total over $44 billion annually.
    • In 2018, 12.6 million Americans reported driving under the influence of marijuana or other illicit drugs.
    • 85% of drinking and driving episodes were reported by binge drinkers, and four in five people who drink and drive are men.
    • One in ten high school teens drinks and drive Yet, the number of teens who drink and drive has decreased by 54% since 1991.
    • In 2016, 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involved alcohol-impaired driving.
    • Drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.

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