DUI education and prevention is crucial. Every day people die from injuries sustained in an auto accident caused by an intoxicated driver who has gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is a serious problem that can affect every person regardless of whether they drive, are a passenger, or are a pedestrian. Steps are being taken to prevent drivers from taking to the road when they have been drinking, and yet accidents continue to happen. For this reason, it is crucial that efforts to prevent drunk driving continue. One of the ways to do this is through continued DUI education of adults and teens about alcohol and how it affects their actions, driving ability, and minds.
In the U.S., the legal criteria for drunk driving centers around blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC refers to the alcohol amount in a person’s blood. It is measured by a breath test or a blood, urine, or saliva test. In general, a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher makes it illegal to drive in all states across the U.S. and can result in a drunk-driving charge or a DUI charge. DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and in most states is typically a criminal offense, but laws and penalties vary by state. DWAI is short for “driving while ability impaired.” This label is used in some states to charge individuals who are driving a vehicle while intoxicated or after taking drugs (or both). This is considered a traffic infraction and is a lesser charge than DWI, or “driving while impaired.” DWI also means that the driver is driving while intoxicated or on drugs, but it is a harsher charge than DWAI and is considered a misdemeanor in states that issue it. Another acronym to understand is PDD, or “persistent drunk driver.” This label is not found in every state, but in those that do use it, it means that a person has had their license revoked because of a minimum of two driving offenses due to alcohol usage. This label also is given to individuals who have been convicted of a driving-related crime and continued to drive even after their license had been revoked or a person who has driven with a 0.17 percent BAC or higher.
To avoid drinking and driving, it is important to understand how much alcohol is too much. The amount of alcohol in a drink is determined not by the size of the glass or bottle but by the type of alcohol that is within it. A standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. This equals a 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.2-ounce shot of hard liquor such as tequila, vodka, or rum. This further varies depending on the type or brand of beer or other drink that a person is consuming. How one tolerates and absorbs alcohol is also a consideration. Absorption rate varies from one person to another based on factors such as gender, body weight, mood while drinking, rate of consumption, and whether a person is drinking on an empty or full stomach. Medications and health concerns can also speed up or slow down absorption rates.
Often, people feel that they are safe to drive if they just have a “buzz” and are not blatantly drunk. People may feel a buzz after one or two drinks and then take to the road. Recent ad campaigns have stressed that even buzzed driving is drunk driving and can result in an accident. This is because alcohol, even in small amounts, still negatively affects one’s judgment and reactions.
Friends can help prevent friends from driving by establishing a designated driver on nights when drinking is anticipated. If a person has traveled alone to a party, bar, etc., and exhibits signs of impairment, one can take the individual’s keys or driver’s license, call a taxi, or offer to drive the intoxicated person home. People responsible for serving alcohol may stop serving alcohol to an intoxicated person, serve water or other non-alcoholic drinks, and offer them food. Some of the signs that a person is impaired or intoxicated include slurred speech, loss of balance, intense emotional reactions or outbursts, glassy or bloodshot eyes, flushed features, fumbling, or vomiting. If people are allowed to drive, the predictable effects on driving include a decrease in visual function, an inability to perform more than one task at a time, lack of speed control, difficulty concentrating, impaired perception, difficulty tracking movements, reduced responses, and diminished ability to process what is being heard and seen.
Cars on the road that may potentially be driven by intoxicated drivers may display behavior such as weaving or swerving, tailgating, accelerating and/or decelerating quickly, braking erratically, delayed or slow responses to traffic lights, straddling lanes, driving without headlights during the night hours, and making abrupt and illegal moves. To prevent cars that display this sort of behavior from potentially causing an accident, take note of the license plate number and direction that the vehicle is traveling and call 911 when it is safe to do so. Police can determine whether drivers are sober or intoxicated by having them step out of the car and perform sobriety tests. These tests check speech, balance, and coordination and may include walking a straight line and checking the person’s pupils and eye movement and their ability to follow directions.
For more DUI education and prevention advice, click on any of the following links:
- Eleven Facts About Driving Under the Influence
- Drunk Driving Laws by State
- Were You Drunk Driving? DUI and DWI Explained
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Procedures (PDF)
- What Can You Do To Prevent Drinking and Driving
- Blood Alcohol Concentration
- Blood Alcohol Concentration Effects Chart (PDF)
- Rethink Drinking: What’s a Standard Drink?
- Drunk Driving Can Be Stopped