Drunk drivers claimed more than 10,000 lives in 2016. That’s 10,000 lives that could have been prevented had the drivers made better choices. If driving a car after consuming alcohol has life or death consequences, why are drunk drivers getting away with lesser charges?
Although DUI penalties are specific and include license suspension and hefty fines, not all drunk drivers face the penalties outlined by law.
In the U.S., DUI laws vary by state. For example, as of 2018, Utah’s blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 0.05%, while the rest of the states set the limit at 0.08%. Most states have worse penalties for drivers who are convicted with a higher BAC. Forty-four states can suspend a driver’s license on the first offense, and twenty-seven states either require or highly incentivize ignition locks for all convicted drunk drivers. In 2016, Maryland began requiring an ignition interlock device.
Some drunk drivers cause accidents without crashing
Sometimes drunk drivers cause accidents they aren’t physically involved in. For example, if a crash happens in a roundabout, it’s important to approach the driver, or catch the license plate of cars that weren’t physically involved. You might approach a car as a potential witness and discover they’re drunk and may have been the original cause for the accident.
Many crashes are initially caused by vehicles that don’t obey traffic rules and cause other cars to crash. The driver of a car that wasn’t physically involved in a crash can still be held liable if they contributed to the cause of the accident. Many drunk drivers get away with causing accidents by fleeing the scene when they cause other cars to crash.
Case details determine penalties
There are multiple factors that go into the final outcome of a case. Just because a person was driving drunk doesn’t mean they’re going to get the maximum penalty allowed by law for a DUI charge. Sometimes first-time offenders get their charges reduced to reckless driving. Others get their case thrown out by claiming the officer who stopped them didn’t have probable cause. Other defenses to drunk driving include claiming tests were improperly administered and the breathalyzer equipment wasn’t certified or calibrated.
Not everyone gets off the hook
In some cases, non-alcohol related factors play a role in what penalties a person will face. For example, a man from Joleton, Tennessee was driving on a suspended license when he crashed into a fence, ran away, and stole a fire department emergency vehicle. According to News 4, the man tried to fight a first responder, and police found drugs in his car. Due to the circumstances of his case, he’s unlikely to see a reduction in charges.
First-time offenders with no prior criminal record often get reduced sentences and smaller fines. However, courts aren’t always sympathetic to first-time drunk drivers, especially when a fatality is involved. When a court is sympathetic to a first-time offender, the driver is usually required to go through a rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation programs aim to get the offender to understand the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, rehabilitation classes don’t guarantee a person will make a better choice next time. Alcohol impairs a person’s decision-making process, and most people don’t know when they’re too drunk to drive.
Alcohol affects judgment, coordination, and memory. Under the influence of alcohol, a person is unable to fully determine the consequences of their actions. They become impulsive and uninhibited.
While sober, a person might truly believe they’ll never drive drunk again. However, once they’re drunk, their impaired reasoning might tell them they’re okay to drive. On one hand, alcohol rehabilitation programs are important, but it’s not the solution for everyone. There will always be people who think they’ve recovered until they go to their next party and once again drive drunk.
A little inconvenience will save lives
It doesn’t seem fair that any drunk driver could get their charges reduced, but it happens more often than you think. It doesn’t make sense to lessen the charges for an offense that was committed under the influence of a substance that impairs judgment. The idea is that a person will learn from their mistakes. However, the problem remains that under the influence of alcohol, people are not capable of making good decisions.
It seems the only way to prevent drunk driving is to always have a designated driver, and make sure everyone gives up their keys before taking that first sip. It’s inconvenient, but it’s the only way to ensure nobody drives drunk.