Causes of Car Accidents: Drunk Driving
There are approximately 5 million car accidents each year in the US that result in injuries. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people are killed in roadway accidents from various causes including fatigue, distracted driving, excessive speed, road rage and inexperience. One of the most insidious reasons for car accident injuries and deaths, however, is drunk driving. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that fully one-third of all traffic deaths are attributed to intoxicated driving
It is illegal for any driver in any state to drive while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. This translates to about 3 drinks in one hour for a 160-pound male. A drink is considered a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or a shot of 80 proof liquor. For females, 2 drinks in an hour if your weight is at 120 pounds generally results in a BAC of at least 0.06% while 3 puts you well over the limit. Your judgment becomes impaired at 0.05%, and you can be arrested for being under the influence regardless of your BAC.
Commercial operators such as taxi, bus and truck drivers may not drive legally if their BAC is 0.04%, which for most means 2 drinks in one hour. If the DMV suspends a commercial driver’s license a second time for having a BAC of at least 0.04%, the individual’s commercial license is permanently revoked.
If you are under the age of 21, any measurable amount of alcohol will cause you to lose your license until you are least 21.
You can expect motorists who are under the influence to be on the roadways at any time of the day. During the week, according to MADD, about 16% of fatal accidents involve intoxicated or impaired drivers. On the weekends, this figure jumps to 29%. Obviously, driving at night poses the most risk for motorists since you are 4 more times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident with a drunk driver than during the day.
There are over 1 million drivers arrested annually for drunk driving, but this is minuscule when compared to the 121 million drivers who self-report having driven drunk at any one time during the past year.
Drunk Driving Prevention
Since the 1980s, penalties for drunk driving have increased substantially. First offenders generally lose their license for 6 to 9 months though they may obtain a restricted license for work or medical reasons. All states have implied consent laws, meaning that every motorist has consented to having their BAC tested if an officer has probable cause to believe they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse to test, your license is automatically suspended for one year.
Multiple offenders face certain jail time and extended loss of their driving privileges. If you cause an accident or a fatality while under the influence, you face felony charges and possible state prison time.
Other prevention measures are sobriety checkpoints at certain highly visible areas where police may detain all or a portion of drivers and observe their demeanor. Drivers who have prior convictions may be forced to install ignition interlock systems on their vehicles where they have to blow into a tube before the car starts and at certain intervals while driving. A BAC as low as 0.02% will prevent the car from operating.
Damages in Drunk Driving Accidents
Should you be injured by a drunk driver, you can bring a claim against their auto liability carrier. Typical damages include:
- Property damage
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Emotional trauma
- Lost earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are awarded if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or exhibited a willful indifference to the safety of others. Some states only allow such damages under extremely egregious circumstances or where a death resulted. For many states, drunk driving constitutes gross negligence though you may need other aggravating factors before punitive damages are allowed by the court.
If a fatality results, the decedent’s immediate family may be entitled to:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for final treatment before death
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of value of household services
- Loss of the decedent’s love, affection support, guidance and counsel
- Punitive damages
The availability of certain damages varies according to the state where the accident occurred. Consult your personal injury attorney regarding compensation and how it is determined.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident? Call Us Today!
If you’ve been injured in a car accident or lost a loved one in a fatal crash, you need a dedicated team of attorneys and legal professionals fighting for your rights. Our attorneys have a long and proven record of helping the victims of car accidents get the compensation they deserve.
Call us today if you or a loved one were injured in
- Commercial bus accident
- School bus accident
- Pedestrian accident
- Bicycle accident
- Truck accident
- Motorcycle accident
- Commercial vehicle accident
- Semi-truck accident
We’ll fight insurance companies, negligent operators, and reckless drivers to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.