While redundant, the warnings of drinking and driving, no matter the source, don’t seem to be taken as seriously as they should by Americans. Everyday, your South Carolina injury lawyers at Howell and Christmas, LLC come across a seemingly endless stream of tragic articles outlining drunk driving accidents that kill, injure, and/or ruin lives. Yet, despite the dangers being well known, individuals from every background continue to make the poor choice to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 4 million Americans admitted to driving drunk in 2010, accounting for 112 million episodes of drunk driving in the same year. Although, these numbers are self reported, thus the true number is certainly higher. But, on the bright side, the statistics show that drunk driving is down 30% since 2006, which shows improvement in our attitude towards drinking and driving, but its still a problem.
To help limit the number of drunk drivers on the road the Centers for Disease Control offer a few suggestions, including more widespread and frequent use of sobriety checkpoints, stronger enforcement of the minimum legal drinking age (21) to help keep young inexperienced drivers from driving drunk, and using ignition interlock systems to prevent drivers convicted of drunk driving offenses from operating their vehicles if they have been drinking. Also, its important in social situations to be aware of friends or family members who may want to drive after having too much to drink, preventing someone from getting behind the wheel could save lives.
In general, as a driver or passenger in a car, the best defense against the threats posed by a drunk driver is to buckle your seat belt.
The legal consequences associated with drinking and driving are severe, and rightfully so, as the consequences to those affected by drunk driving are devastating. For instance, a 45-year-old woman in Florida was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison after her decision to drink and drive resulted in her crashing into three construction workers and a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) manslaughter. The collision killed two of the workers and seriously injured the third. Investigators in the crash said the woman had a blood-alcohol limit three times to legal limit in Florida. In his explanation of the sentence the Circuit Judge said, “For someone to be that impaired, but still be able to put a key in the ignition and drive for at least a few miles before this crash, that shows that there was some cognitive ability there for you to know that you were drunk.”
While young men, ages 21-34, only account for 11% of the U.S. population in 2010, they were responsible for 32% of all instances of drinking and driving.
In the last week your Charleston, SC attorneys came across a couple of particularly devastating accidents involving young men and drunk driving. First, and like the story above, also in Florida, a 26-year-old man faces DUI charges after crashing his sport utility vehicle, a 2002 Jeep Cherokee. Sadly, his 7-year-old daughter was also in the SUV with him, and was killed after the father lost control of the vehicle. According to reports, the child was in a booster seat and wearing a safety belt at the time of the alleged drunk driving accident. Also according to the reports, this was not the man’s first DUI, he had pleaded guilty to the charge in 2009 and to a reduced charge in 2010. Per the Centers for Disease Control’s suggestion regarding drunk driving prevention, it appears this fatal accident could have been avoided had an ignition interlock system been implemented.
In Vermont, a 22-year-old man has been charged with DUI resulting in a fatality, among two other felonies, after driving his 2004 Acura off the road, and could face a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted of all three charges. In the car were a total of eight unbuckled passengers, one of which, an 18-year-old freshman at Norwich University, was killed in the accident. Additionally, three of the other passengers suffered serious injuries as a result of the drunk driving accident. At the young man’s arraignment police said his blood alcohol content was two and a half times the legal limit.