Driving Under The Influence: Costs, Consequences and Prevention
How to ensure the safety of yourself, your loved ones and others this holiday season:
By Alisha Barnes, M.S.
It is no secret that driving under the influence will come at a price, but what exactly are the costs? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the past five years have seen a rise in alcohol-induced fatalities, with nearly 300 individuals each year losing their lives between the week of Christmas and New Years alone. While these incidents are not confined strictly to the holiday season, there are factors at play to consider leading to the dramatic increase this time of year. While one might think of the holidays and be reminded of the love of family, the beauty of the season and the spirit of giving, for some this season comes with its own stressors and reminders. The reality of grief and loss is one that many individuals live with on a daily basis. These emotions are often heightened during the holiday season, as the season itself is one in which we are encouraged to celebrate with the ones we love. For others, the season comes with a sense of financial burden, as individuals attempt to partake in festivities while still remaining within the budget. It can be easy to find oneself overwhelmed when considering gift-giving amongst friends and relatives, holiday work parties and the planning and costs associated with those traditional meals.
The regular presence of alcohol involved in these social gatherings can lead to an increased acceptance in the amount of alcohol consumed this time of year. Given the right circumstances, one may find themselves more intoxicated than intended, whether that be the result of socialization, the desire to numb those emotions that may come along with the season, or both. Ones “typical” alcohol usage cannot be relied upon to estimate the risk of receiving a DUI, as even individuals whom may typically identify as social or moderate alcohol users can find themselves overindulging in the festivities. Considering that the season typically brings more travel, precarious weather and regular celebrations, it would stand to reason that accidents associated with alcohol usage would also increase.
Costs and Consequences
It is estimated that the rate at which drivers are stopped for DUI related incidents increases by 33% leading up to Christmas day, likely the result of an abundance of holiday parties and easy access to alcohol. This number further increases to well over 40% when considering New Year’s Eve itself. Regardless of those circumstances leading to an arrest, consequences are sure to follow. A driver is considered to be impaired and at a greater than average risk towards alcohol-induced car accidents when their blood alcohol concentration reaches .08 grams. However, it should be noted that in particular states, one can be convicted of a DUI even if found to be under the legal limit, provided that it is determined that alcohol resulted in impairment and therefore, unsafe driving. Whether or not one receives a DUI as a result of a traffic stop or accident, they are likely facing license suspension, costs and fines, community service, higher insurance premiums and potential jail time. These consequences can increase in the case of fatalities accrued as a result of driving under the influence, with the potential to be charged with vehicular homicide.
Even with the best of intentions, it’s nearly impossible to know the extent of one’s impairment. Thus, the only way to be certain to avoid the dangers and consequences that come along with driving under the influence is to avoid getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after alcohol consumption. The good news is that in today’s society there is no need to operate a motor vehicle under the influence when alternative means of transportation are available. Potential resources include car-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft, as well as utilizing a Taxi Service or choosing a designated driver prior to going out. Uber and Lyft can both be easily accessed in the majority of locations, with the ability to download the application onto one’s smartphone prior to engaging in festivities. The application further allows for adding a method of payment, essentially alleviating any potential barriers ahead of time.
Generally speaking, driving under the influences places one at risk for legal ramifications lasting well beyond the incident in question, puts one at risk for personal injuries, both physical and emotional, and increases the potential for unintentionally harming others, an added weight to the already heavy burden of being reprimanded for a DUI. State Farm Insurance has reported that on average an individual convicted of a DUI has likely driven intoxicated at least 80 times prior to the arrest. Essentially, one is “rolling the dice” when choosing to drink and drive. So this holiday season, as one begins to prepare for upcoming festivities, take the time to plan ahead in regards to what those festivities may entail and how to arrive to and from the destination safely.
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