The Dangers and Penalties Of
Drinking and Driving
Drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the degree that
mental and motor skills are impaired.
Drunk driving is illegal in all jurisdictions of the United States.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 40 percent of all traffic related
deaths in 2004 were related to alcohol.
Intoxication is determined by the levels of alcohol in the blood, which is call the blood alcohol concentration
or BAC. A BAC of .01 is enough to cause impairment and cause a traffic incident to be determined as alcohol
In most states a BAC of .08 or greater will get a person arrested and determined to be under the influence of
alcohol. Some states include a lesser charge of intoxication, which includes a BAC of .05 to .07. All states have a
zero tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 because alcohol consumption is illegal before that time.
Often times a person under the age of 21 will lose his or her driving license if they are caught purchasing
alcohol or even consuming alcohol regardless of whether or not they are in a vehicle or driving at the time.
Many jurisdictions employ much higher penalties for anyone whose BAC is .20 or higher even if they did not cause
a traffic incident but were simply operating a motor vehicle.
To be able to drive at this level of intoxication the person would have to have been getting drunk regularly for
many years to build up enough tolerance to the alcohol and more than likely the person would have driven drunk
previously as well.
All drunk driving offenses carry possible jail terms. However, most first offenders are given lesser sentences
such as driver license suspension or restriction, fines, mandatory driving classes, and alcohol counseling.
Some jurisdictions sentence all drunk drivers to jail no matter what the situation. Most recently, states have
begun to use the breath test that is installed in the offenders vehicle. In order to start the car the driver must
breathe into the device.
If the person is intoxicated, the car will not start. Many states impose higher sentences on people who are
transporting children, have open containers of alcohol in their vehicles, or who are driving in a particularly
reckless or dangerous manner.
Habitual drivers also receive stricter sentences. For example in Michigan, a third offense is an automatic
felony and an automatic five-year jail sentence.
Did You Know
Alcoholism is influenced by both hereditary and environmental factors. Addictions,
particularly addictions to alcohol tend to run in families and it is known that genes to play a
role in that process. Research has shown in recent years that people who have/had alcoholic parents
are more likely to develop the same disorder themselves.
Interestingly, men have a greater propensity towards alcoholism in this
circumstance than women. People with lowered inhibitions are at an even greater risk for becoming
alcoholics. The two main characteristics for becoming addicted to alcohol stem from having an
immediate family member who is an alcoholic and having a high-risk personality.
A person with a high-risk personality is one where he or she has lower inhibitions
and thrives on taking risks in most all situations. If a person comes from a family with one or
more alcoholics and likes to take risks, they should recognized that they are at what is considered
high risk for becoming an alcoholic.
At this time, it is thought that the genetic tendency toward
alcoholism in a person does not ensure that he or she will become an alcoholic but instead
just means that those people feel the effects of the alcohol more intensely and quickly. In
effect, the determination of genetic risk is only a determination of higher risk toward the
addiction and not necessarily an indication of future alcoholism
In recent years, states have tried to become more unified in the way they handle drunken driving situations in
an effort to make the laws more uniform from state to state.
Because of the increase in drunken driving occurrences, the states are also making the penalties for doing so
much stricter than ever before. First offenders are being penalized more than in recent years in an effort to
teach them not to ever drive under the influence again.
Repeat offenders are receive extremely strict sentences as well so that they cannot offend again and
possible do more damage.
Drinking steadily and consistently over time can cause a physical dependence on alcohol as
well as withdrawal symptoms when going without alcohol for very long. Physical dependence will
not lead to alcoholism by itself.
There must first be issues involved that cause the person to abuse alcohol and to abuse
alcohol in an effort to deal with painful emotions and/or experiences. Many factors lead to
alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
These things are important to recognize when the alcoholic goes through recovery and quits
Any factors that can be removed or solved need to be addressed as part of the alcoholism
Driving under the influence of alcohol decreases a persons ability to react appropriately in driving situations
and slows reflections and reaction time.
These people are not able to make driving decisions that are necessary to avoid accidents or to simply be safe
Drunk driving can cause, major property damage as well as severely injure or fatally wound other people. Many
times the drunk person walks away from the accident unharmed because of the relaxation effect of the alcohol on