Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is highly dangerous and comes with severe consequences. Of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, motor vehicle accidents rank number four. A common cause of fatal accidents is driving under the influence.
In spite of the obvious danger, driving while impaired is a common occurrence, due in part to the fact that the decision to drive in the first place is made while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Understanding all of the facts, myths, statistics, and penalties about DUIs (Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol) and DWAIs (Driving While Ability is Impaired) can be a helpful deterrent if you or a friend or loved one is prone to this activity. It can also prepare you if you are facing a criminal charge for this offense.
Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
Under Colorado law, a person is driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) hits .08 g/100mL or higher. Colorado is a rebuttable presumption state, meaning that if a person’s BAC is at or above this level, there is a permissible inference that the defendant is under the influence of alcohol.
Colorado also recognizes DUI per se, which does not look at the driver’s BAC but instead his or her ability to safely drive.
A DWAI is considered to be driving while experiencing the slightest degree of impairment and is usually considered to involve a BAC of between .05 and .079 g/100mL.
This number, .08 g/100mL or higher, is applicable to drivers over the age of 21. In the United States, there is no acceptable BAC limit for drivers under the age of 21, as they are under the legal drinking age.
The rate of alcohol impairment for drunk drivers in fatal crashes is 3.3 times higher at night than during daylight hours.
Even though .08 g/100mL is the point at which your BAC becomes too high for driving, the vast majority of drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were recorded with much higher BAC levels, with over 50% at .15 g/100mL or higher.
Myth: Drinking coffee, showering, splashing cold water on your face, or drinking plenty of water will help you get sober. Truth: The only thing that can reduce the effects of alcohol impairment is time.
Myth: Alcohol is a stimulant. Truth: Alcohol is a depressant that causes the central nervous system to relax the body and lower brain activity.
Myth: Beer and wine are safer than liquor for driving. Truth: Alcohol, regardless of its form, causes impairment. The average 12 oz beer has the same content as a 5 oz glass of wine or a single shot of liquor.
Myth: Larger people can hold their alcohol better. Truth: Size is a factor in how your body digests alcohol, but so are your level of alertness, how much food you have in your stomach, and your chemical makeup.
DUI Related Fatalities and Injuries
In the United States alone, a DUI related accident results in death every 51 minutes. This means about 27 people die each day as a result of driving under the influence.
A DUI results in injury every 120 seconds.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, 10,497 lives were claimed by alcohol-impaired driving in 2016.
214 children (ages 14 and under) died as a result of alcohol-impaired driving in 2016.
As of 2012, about 15% of all weekday accident fatalities were related to alcohol impairment, compared to 30% of all weekend accident fatalities.
In 2016, more alcohol related fatal accidents occurred in the months of May, July, and October than in all of the other months.
70% of DUI related accidents involving fatalities occurred at night, with the other 30% occurring in the dawn, daylight, and dusk hours.
86% of these DUI related fatal accidents occurred on non-interstate roads. Some might think it’s safer to drive if you are only going a short distance, but the evidence shows that most accidents occur on these short-distance drives.
For teenagers, the leading cause of death is motor vehicle accident fatalities, and around ⅓ of those are related to alcohol or other substance impairment.
In spite of these statistics, alcohol related traffic deaths per population have actually dropped by half since the early 1980s for people ages 16-20.
With the legalization of marijuana in several states, as well as increases in prescription medication abuse, the use of drugs while driving a vehicle has become a growing concern.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that Colorado, Washington and Oregon experienced 3% more car accidents than they would have experienced if they had not legalized marijuana use.
Marijuana use doubles the likelihood of being in an accident and causes more accidents than any other illicit drug.
Drunk driving doesn’t happen overnight. The average drunk driver should have driven under the influence for 80 times before they’re arrested and convicted of their first offense.
Anywhere from 50-75% of those who have had licenses revoked due to alcohol-impairment continue to drive, which is obviously illegal.
Statistically, children who become involved with alcohol or substance abuse at a young age are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol related crash at some point in their lives.
The Economics of DUIs
As of 2010 (the most recent year statistics are available), DUI related costs amounted to about $800 per adult in the United States, with the total national cost at about $44 billion. These economic costs include:
Emergency medical expenses
Loss of productivity
Insurance administrative costs
Individually, the cost of a DUI is a hefty one to pay. Although penalties and legal fees vary from state to state, it’s not uncommon for a DUI to cost someone upwards of $6,500 to resolve, even without personal harm or property damage. The individual costs include:
In addition to all of these, it is becoming increasingly common for those convicted of DUIs to be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. These devices detect BAC and will prevent the car from starting if levels are too high.
If you are pulled over or in an accident and are suspected of driving under the influence, you may be asked to take a field sobriety test, but you can ALWAYS refuse this type of test.
If the officer has probable cause to believe you committed an alcohol or drug-related driving offense, you may be read your rights, handcuffed, and taken to a county or city jail. Alternatively, you may be taken to a hospital if you elect a blood draw or a detox center.
Owning and operating a motor vehicle in the state of Colorado automatically implies consent to a chemical sobriety test. If you refuse a sobriety test, your license will be taken. Your driving privileges may be revoked, but you can contest this action by requesting a hearing and having an experienced attorney defend your rights.
Penalties and Legal Options
The penalties of DUIs and DWAIs vary from state to state, but almost all include fines, possible jail time, mandatory alcohol education and treatment/assessment, license suspension and revocation, and the potential for vehicle confiscation and required ignition interlock device. In the state of Colorado, the following penalties are possible if you are convicted of a DUI.
If you refuse to consent to a chemical test, you can be classified as a Persistent Drunk Driver (PDD) and may be subject to the ignition interlock device requirement. You get a temporary license for 7 days after refusing. Requesting a hearing extends this to another 60 days.
A BAC over .15 causes a PDD classification from the DMV.
If the first time offender is under 21, the license suspension is from 3 months to a year, with 4 points being added to the driving record.
For repeated offenses, penalties increase. Specifically, license revocation goes up to one year for a second offense, and up to two years for a third offense. Further education is usually required, and required installation of an ignition interlock device becomes increasingly probable.
These administrative penalties can be challenged through an administrative hearing, which you must request within seven days of receiving an Affidavit and Notice of Express Consent. You can do this in person at the DMV, where you will be required to turn your license in (if you did not do so at the time of the violation). Some individuals are eligible for a temporary driving permit while they wait on their hearing.
On top of all of the above administrative penalties that come with a DUI, it is also a criminal charge.
DWAI: First Offense – Fine: $200-$1500 – Jail time: Up to one year – Community service: Up to 48 hours – 8 points toward license suspension
DUI: First Offense – Fine: $600-$1,000 – Jail time: Up to one year (mandatory minimum jail time with BAC of .20 or higher) – Community service: Up to 96 hours – 9 months administrative license revocation – 12 points against your license – Alcohol education
A DUI is a Misdemeanor, which goes on your criminal record for life. Repeated offenses may result in greater criminal charges, and a fourth offense is considered a felony in the state of Colorado.
It will be important to hire an attorney who will be able to answer your questions and provide you with the counsel you need when facing the criminal charges associated with a DUI.
A DUI is a serious offense that comes with serious consequences. At the very least, it can be financially costly and result in a criminal record, and at most, can cost someone his or her life. Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated is a danger to everyone involved.