Driving while under the influence of alcohol kills about 30 people every day in the US, amounting to the equivalent of one drunk-driving death every 48 minutes, every single day. The impaired driver is not always or even most commonly the fatality in the accident. In 2011, 226 children were killed in alcohol-related crashes with 54% of them riding in the vehicle with the drunk driver. Eighty-two percent of fatal car crashes involve alcohol. Taken together, it is easy to see that quite a bit of carnage results from drinking and driving. Even so, crash-related deaths are only a single facet of the issue.
Getting Pulled Over While Drinking and Driving
Whether it’s at an unavoidable sobriety check-point or because of crossing over the center line, sooner or later most drunk drivers encounter law enforcement personnel. Drinking and driving is illegal in all fifty states, although punishment meted out after a drunk driving conviction varies considerably. Someone whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08% or greater is considered under the influence and committing a crime, whether they demonstrate impairment or not. The legal limit is even lower for minors (under 21) and commercial drivers.
The Legal Consequences of Drinking and Driving
Because of the seriousness involved with driving under the influence (DUI), the legal consequences can be profound, even for first-time offenders and even for those who are just above the legal limit when arrested. Some of these consequences include:
- Suspension of driver’s license
- High fines
- Community service
- Ignition interlock device
- Alcohol education or therapy
- Jail time
License suspension is generally for one year. The fines involved for a first offense in some states can be as high as $1,000 and jail time can be as long as one year, but every state has its own set of laws governing DUI. For subsequent offenses, these sentences can be even more severe, including becoming a felony, depending on the situation (aggravated DUI) or level of recidivism (third or fourth offense).
The above delineated sentences potentially imposed for driving while intoxicated (DWI) do not occur in a vacuum. Many people lose their jobs due to a DUI/DWI conviction. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
- Person is incarcerated
- Person cannot drive to work
- Termination of employment due to workplace policies or at-will employment
- Firing someone because of a DUI conviction is legal in most states.
Related to this aspect, in terms of finances, insurance rates for drunk drivers typically skyrocket upon conviction, making it that much harder to manage transportation and maintain good employment.
Family and Social Consequences
Many people have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, making this issue one that can generate heated censure. A DUI conviction or even arrest without conviction has the ability to fracture families and alienate friends and associates. Divorce due to DUI conviction is not uncommon, regardless of which partner is convicted. Drinking and driving also sets a poor example for children.
The Consequences of Not Getting Caught
All of these consequences above are predicated on the person driving under the influence eventually being caught and punished. Those who are not caught don’t actually get away scot-free. The level of alcohol abuse associated with those who drink and drive often lead to long-term health consequences. These can include increased risk for:
- Dementia, stroke, and neuropathy
- Cardiovascular problems
- Cancer affecting the mouth, throat/esophagus, liver, colon, and breasts.
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Cirrhosis and other diseases of the liver
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Pancreatitis – associated with both diabetes and pancreatic cancer
Those who abuse alcohol are also at an increased risk for mental health problems that can include depression, anxiety, and risk of suicide.
Getting Help Before It’s Too Late
Inpatient treatment is available for individuals who abuse alcohol or are demonstrating symptoms of addiction, including drinking and driving. Experiencing the cutting-edge treatment that’s found in a safe and professional inpatient environment can be the best first step on a long road toward a better life and future recovery.
Benefits of inpatient treatment include:
- The emotional benefits of a supportive environment
- Escape from addiction triggers and bad influences
- Time for introspection, personal growth, self-discovery, and healing
- Exposure to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques
- Professional care for withdrawal and other health-impacting symptoms
- Learning both life skills and coping skills to combat abusive behavior patterns
- Long-term rehabilitation options
If you or someone you love are struggling with issues related to alcohol use or abuse, including drinking and driving, consider inpatient treatment as an option. It could save your life or theirs, or the life of one of the 10,000 people killed each year in drunk driving accidents.