Drinking and driving is one of the most deadly causes of motor vehicle accidents, resulting in the deaths of nearly 30 people per DAY and more than 10,000 per year in the United States. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you’re not alone—help is available to you, and you may be able to receive full compensation for your injuries. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer at the law firm of Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, can tell you how.
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The Dangers of Drunk Driving
Consuming alcohol impairs the skills needed for safe driving, including concentration, reaction time, reasoning, and coordination. A person’s blood alcohol concentration is a measurement of how much alcohol is in a certain volume of blood. The blood alcohol concentration in which a person is no longer legally permitted to drive is 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. However, impairment of good driving skills begins as soon as the first drink.
- At 0.02 blood alcohol concentration, which is the equivalent of about one alcoholic drink, a person’s judgment is already impaired. Additionally, their vision might blur or they may have difficulty following a moving object. Visual alertness is vitally important to the task of driving, particularly at night, when drinking is most likely to take place. If someone has difficulty tracking a moving target, they may also find it difficult to judge the speed of fellow drivers, which is essential when merging or changing lanes. Multi-tasking is also a requirement for safe driving. An inebriated driver who cannot multitask may fail to flick on their signal or adequately brake when making a simple turn.
- At 0.05 BAC, an individual may exhibit looser inhibitions, exaggerated behavior, loss of small muscle control such as the inability to focus their eyes, slowed reaction times, and a loss of alertness. They may also experience a reduction in coordination, have difficulty steering, and a reduced response to emergency driving situations. A slow reaction time not only prevents a driver from responding appropriately to emergency driving situations, but may also lead to traffic hazards if the person is reacting slowly to the changing of lights or when crossing through an intersection.
- At the 0.08 legal limit, balance, speech, reaction time, vision, and hearing are all significantly impaired, as well as self-control, reasoning, and judgment. The person may experience difficulty concentrating, suffer short-term memory loss, impaired perception, and may have difficulty with driving tasks such as visual search and signal detection. Making good decisions is an important part of driving safely. It’s a responsibility you take on every time you pick up your keys. When alcohol impairs someone’s judgment, they put others at risk and can make fatal mistakes such as speeding, failing to yield, or even driving on the wrong side of the road.
- At 0.10 BAC, there are pronounced difficulties with reaction time and control, as well as slurred speech and a reduced ability to brake in time or maintain one’s lane of travel (i.e. swerving. One of the common signs of an alcohol impaired driver is a vehicle weaving in and out of the travel lane. This places the driver and others at risk of serious sideswipe accidents.
- At 0.15 BAC, an individual may vomit due to high alcohol consumption, and will likely experience substantial impairment to their ability to control a vehicle, pay attention, see, and hear.
The above list of intoxication effects is just a general guide. Alcohol affects people differently depending on their age, size, gender, emotional state, how much they’ve eaten, and how often they drink. But regardless of their tolerance, drinking and driving puts other drivers and their families at risk. Approximately 17 percent of traffic-related deaths of children aged 0-14 years involved a drunk driver.
Case in point: A suspected drunk driver admitted that he drank SIX beers and took FOUR shots before getting into his car and driving down a roadway at 65 miles per hour. On his journey, he crashed into a parked car and knocked it into a ditch. It gets worse: he then ran into a group of bystanders who had gathered to help the first vehicle. One of these bystanders, a 23-year-old woman, was thrown onto the hood of the man’s vehicle and then into the ditch. She was transported to the hospital with serious injuries and was later declared brain dead. The man was charged with intoxication manslaughter.
It is our responsibility to manage our risk factors, practice good judgment, and keep ourselves and others safe. Those at particularly high risk of being involved in a drunk driving accident include:
- Young drivers: Teen drivers are already at much higher risk of having an accident due to inexperience, incomplete development of some of the skills needed for safe driving, and distracting friends who may be in the passenger seat. These drivers are also the most at risk of having a crash when alcohol impaired. Young people are also more likely to binge drink—that is, drinking a high volume of alcohol over a short period of time—resulting in increased impairment. Underage drinking is illegal, and groups of all ages should have a designated driver to get everyone home safely.
- Motorcyclists: Motorcyclists are at greater risk of dying in a crash caused by drunken motorists due to the lack of protective features on their bikes, including seat belts, airbags, and steel frames. They may also be harder for impaired drivers to spot, due to the smaller size of their mode of transport.
- Drivers with prior drunk driving convictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that those convicted of driving under the influence are four to five times more likely to have been convicted of driving under the influence before!
Unfortunately, drunk drivers seldom learn their lesson. Many drivers who are convicted of drunk driving have been or will be convicted again. In spite of strict state laws that call for the suspension of driver’s licenses and the installation of interlock devices, too many people are seemingly unable or unwilling to stop driving drunk. Here are a few real life examples:
- A man who was already ON PROBATION for a drunk driving conviction was found to have nearly triple the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he drove 135 miles per hour in an attempt to evade police officers, and smashed into another vehicle. This accident caused the death of a 27-year-old man. After the accident—which took place near the end of a high speed chase that involved the drunk driver traveling the wrong direction on the roadway and weaving in and out of traffic—the suspect attempted to flee on foot but was quickly apprehended. He was held without bail and faced charges that include aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, and 14 others.
- A judge informed a man during sentencing that he had to have known—after a previous DUI and stints in rehab—that he was too impaired to drive on the morning he drove his SUV erratically through traffic while under the influence of prescription drugs. However, the judge added, “My sense is you just didn’t care.” The man was sentenced to 24 years to life for causing a crash on that morning that killed a 10-year-old girl and caused serious injuries to her sister and her father. Reportedly, when the man was told by a highway patrol officer at the scene that the child had died, he merely responded by saying, “Accidents happen!” The man’s toxicology test revealed the presence of muscle relaxers and other prescription drugs. At the time of the crash, he was on probation for a previous DUI conviction.
- A man who admitted that he was driving drunk when he crashed his car into a tree in someone’s yard, and then into a garage, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for his sixth DUI conviction. At the time of the crash, the man had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.256, which is more than THREE TIMES the legal limit. Deputies found alcohol at the scene, as well as a pill bottle that contained what was suspected to be cannabis. He pled guilty to aggravated DUI, a Class X felony. His previous DUI convictions took place in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2009.
Costs to the Injured
Individuals who are involved in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents face serious injuries and suffering, both physical and financial. Their expenses can include:
- Medical expenses, including the cost of ambulance rides, emergency department services, prescription medication, diagnostic testing and imaging, surgical services, hospitalization, physical therapy and rehabilitation, assistive devices such as wheelchairs or crutches, and home and vehicle modifications required to provide the injured person with accessibility and mobility.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work or missing work to attend doctor’s appointments, as well as permanent disability in some cases. Loss of wages may extend to loss of future earning potential.
- The cost of car repairs and property damage, as well as the cost of rental cars or other travel expenses incurred while their vehicle is being repaired or replaced.
- Loss of services that the injured person provided at home, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, lawn care, childcare, or home maintenance. Sometimes workers and aides must be hired to assist with these services.
- Emotional costs, including ongoing humiliation from scarring and disfigurement, mental distress, post traumatic stress disorder and trauma, loss of the enjoyment of life, and emotional costs to family members who may suddenly find themselves in a caretaker role or without the support and companionship of an injured loved one.
The Societal Cost of Drunk Driving
When drunk drivers hit the road, it’s not only the accident victims and their families who suffer. We all do. How exactly does this trickle down? The cost to society of drunk driving is estimated to be about $132 billion EACH YEAR, including expenses such as:
- Higher insurance rates. While a convicted drunk driver is likely going to have trouble finding affordable insurance, the costs of paying out settlements and claims of those injured by the drunk driver are indirectly passed on to all other drivers insured by the drunk driver’s carrier through premium increases. If you are wondering why your insurance premiums randomly went up—this is one reason!
- Increased taxes. Arrests, criminal investigations, criminal trials, court-mandated treatment programs, administrative costs, and incarceration all involve the use of taxpayer money and result in additional money being sought by local governments to pay for the conviction and care of felony DUI offenders. That’s right – you pay for their mistakes.
- Medical and property costs. When a DUI accident occurs, often the first responders are city-funded EMTs and fire department members. When a DUI accident occurs, it often results in damage to guardrails, utility poles, street signs, and other property that is funded by the public.
- Medical costs and lost productivity. When an individual suffers an incapacitating accident due to a drunk driver, medical costs can often be massive, and the injured person and his or her family may be forced to rely on public assistance to continue treatment or to pay bills due to ongoing or permanent disability. With less severe injuries, work may still be missed to attend doctor’s appointments, resulting in lost productivity at the workplace.
- Increased traffic congestion due to accidents blocking the roadway. Traffic congestion results in higher fuel consumption, wasted time, and tardiness at the workplace.
Call Our Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers for Help Now
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of injured victims for more than 20 years. If a drunk driver injured you, don’t delay. Call our office right now for a free consultation! Because we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a DIME unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or contact us now by CLICKING HERE.