The holidays are a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family. As the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember that we must all celebrate responsibly when it comes to drinking and driving. As a personal injury lawyer who has prosecuted drunk driving cases, I am all too familiar with the risks associated with drinking and driving.
Auto accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death and serious injury in the US. The addition of alcohol increases these risks exponentially. Almost one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the US involve at least one person impaired by alcohol. In fact, one person is injured in an alcohol-related accident every minute.
Many believe drunk driving will never impact their lives. However, one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at one point in their life. For those lucky enough to avoid being a direct victim, nearly everyone will have a friend or family member who will be injured or killed in an alcohol-related accident.
Refusing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated dramatically reduces the risk of getting into an auto accident. However, even responsible people can, of course, still become a victim of drunk driving. There are many people who regularly drink and drive. In fact, a drunk driver will drive intoxicated about 80 times before their first arrest. Perhaps equally alarming, 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue driving on a suspended license.
Amazingly, drunk drivers continue to break the law notwithstanding the risk of harming themselves and others. In addition to these risks, there is the risk of getting caught and facing criminal penalties. In Illinois, first time DUI offenders will lose their driver's license for a minimum of one year, may be imprisoned for up to one year, and be fined up to $2,500. The penalties become much worse for repeat offenders. In addition, if a person is convicted of aggravated DUI, meaning they crashed and seriously injured or killed another while intoxicated, the offender will lose their license for up to one year, face up to twelve years in prison, and be fined up to $25,000.
Because the risk of drunk driving is higher during the holiday season, it is important to be alert to common drunk driving behaviors. These behaviors include vehicles drifing in and out of lanes, vehicles traveling on the wrong side of the road, vehicles traveling unusually fast or slow, and vehicles traveling at night without their headlights on. Of course, these are just some examples of drunk driving and are, in no way, an exhaustive list. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of drunk driving during the holidays is stay off roads as much as possible, particularly at night and especially on New Years Eve.
MADD, Statistics, November 18, 2011
CDC Website, Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults - United States, 2010.
Illinois State Police Website, Drunk Driving, November 18, 2011.