Driving Under the Influence 101
If you need a little reminder as to the devastation caused by drinking and driving, watch this video.
Most of us know or know of someone who has been cited for driving under the influence (or driving while intoxicated, depending on the specifics within your state). In many cases, that person continues to live and work normally, with the exception of a brief period without his or her license. It might make it seem like there are no real consequences for driving under the influence.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Driving is a skill, and it’s one that can’t be performed well by an impaired person, no matter how many drinks that person thinks he or she can handle. An impaired driver is significantly more likely to be involved in accidents that cause damage to both property and people. For that reason, the government continues to tighten restrictions and increase penalties for people found to be driving under the influence.
If you’re caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will almost definitely lose your license for a period of at least 6 months. In addition, you or your family will face significant costs in penalties and court costs.
Beyond that, you’ll also be looking at dramatically increased insurance rates. If you’re currently with a high-quality, reputable insurance provider, there’s a very high chance that they will dump you completely, along with anyone else on your shared policy. This is often true even if the offense is later cleared from your record, as insurance companies are private businesses and they aren’t required to keep you.
If you injure someone or cause an accident while intoxicated, you could even end up with a felony on your record and a prison sentence. Some states will classify repeat offenses as felonies, so you don’t necessarily have to hurt someone to get a record that could hinder your job searches for the rest of your life.
It’s important to be familiar with the laws in your state and any state in which you’ll be traveling. The general rule is that driving with a blood alcohol content, or BAC, at .08 or higher is illegal, but laws for drivers under the age of 21 can vary. All states have stricter requirements for underage drinkers, and many states now have zero tolerance policies that punish any underage drinker with a BAC exceeding .01.
In practical terms, that means that no one of any age should have more than one or two drinks in an hour prior to driving. While the impact of a drink does vary with the weight of the individual, remember that serving sizes also vary. That’s especially true if you’re drinking beverages that contain hard liquor as opposed to beer or wine, which are fairly easy to assess.
While the penalties for driving under the influence are extremely severe, keep in mind that it’s one of the few driving problems that you can avoid with 100% certainty. Remember that there are always options for getting home safely. Any trouble you might get in by seeking help is going to be less than the trouble you would be in if you got a DUI or caused an accident.
- Give the keys to someone who hasn’t been drinking.
- Call your parents or a relative.
- Form a partnership with other teens and their parents. Make sure that all the teens know they could call on any of the parents in the absence of their own.
- Take a bus, subway, or cab.
- Call someone from your church.
- Walk home (assuming that it is safe to do so).
- Stay where you are until you’re sober.
- In communities where cabs aren’t an option, local police may be willing to help you get home if you or your ride home are too impaired to drive.
Yes, some of the options above are embarrassing. In the end, though, most people are going to remember that you had the good sense to help keep yourself and everyone else on the roads safe.