Driving Under the InfluenceDriving under the influence (DUI) is the criminal act of driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of the legal limit. This is sometimes referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence, or drunk driving. Drunk driving laws may also extend to boating, piloting an aircraft, or even using a horse-drawn carriage.
The first state to adopt laws against drunk driving was New York in 1910, with California and others following shortly after. The laws and penalties associated with drunk driving were made stricter in the 1970's, and continued to get tougher throughout the 1990's. The current BAC limit for driving is .08%. Some states have a lesser charge for BAC's of .05%, with many jurisdictions limiting this figure to drivers under the age of 21. Commercial drivers in many areas are limited to a BAC of .04%, and receive stricter punishments for exceeding the limit. It is also illegal to drive under the influence of other drugs, or to drive under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. The use of both legal and illegal substances can result in DUI or DWI charges.
Historically, drunk drivers were caught by observing reckless driving. Even today, field sobriety tests are administered to suspected drunk drivers. Field sobriety tests must follow National Highway of Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines, and include .a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest.. Tests can include things like walking a straight line heel-to-toe, standing on one leg, or touching the tip of your nose with a finger. Currently, drunk driving is determined by blood alcohol tests. The test generally occurs within two hours of the incident, with results obtained by a breathalyzer.
Being aware of your blood alcohol content (BAC) is important in determining whether or not it is legal to drive. BAC is expressed as a percentage of alcohol in the body. The effects of alcohol consumption on BAC vary greatly from person to person. Factors such as gender, size, hydration, food intake, amount of alcohol consumed, and rate of consumption all play a role in determining a person's BAC. BAC's over the legal limit can occur when drinking as little as one or two drinks.
Some disturbing statistics regarding drunk driving:
- The NHTSA estimates that in 2006, 17,941 people died in collisions involving alcohol. That figure represents 40% of all traffic deaths in the United States.
- The NHTSA reported that 275,000 people were injured in alcohol related collisions during 2003.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that local law enforcement agencies made 1,467,300 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1996. That year, DUI's accounted for 1 out of every 10 arrests in the U.S.
- According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a person is injured in a drunk driving collision every 90 seconds.
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, 1/3 of which are alcohol related.