While holiday festivities may look a bit different this year due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many people will still find a way to celebrate. Some celebrations include cocktails and drugs, which is why December is the ideal time to remind the public of the risks of driving under the influence. To commemorate National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, one should learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that an average of 300 people are killed in drunk driving accidents between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The dangers of impaired driving are well-known, but many people continue driving under the influence. Some individuals are willing to take the chance and drive. Some motorists become so intoxicated that they cannot make rational decisions. Many drivers do not understand the dangers of drunk and drugged driving.
Can Any Amount of Alcohol Cause Intoxication?
There is a lot of debate about whether it is okay to drive after a single glass of wine or mixed drink. However, it cannot be overstated that alcohol affects the body, even in small amounts. Blood alcohol content (BAC) refers to the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood at a given time. A BAC level is used to assess intoxication for legal and medical purposes. BAC levels vary by person, depending on gender and weight. Generally, one standard drink increases the average person’s BAC level from 0.02 to 0.05 percent. In Pennsylvania, a BAC of 0.08 to 0.99 is the first level of intoxication. This means a person may be considered legally intoxicated after consuming only two drinks.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
To better understand the dangers of drunk driving, it is helpful to understand how small amounts of alcohol change the way the brain and body function. Consuming alcohol can negatively impact these essential driving skills:
- Concentration: Alcohol increases drowsiness and lowers the ability to pay attention and process events.
- Coordination: Alcohol reduces eye, hand, and foot coordination.
- Decision-Making: When intoxicated, judgement is compromised and risk-taking increases.
- Tracking: When a person is under the influence, it is difficult to judge the vehicle’s position, as well as signs, signals, and other cars and pedestrians.
- Vision: When intoxicated, a person might have blurred vision and slow eye movement.
What are the Drunk Driving Laws in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, a first offense includes six months of probation. A second offense includes six months of jail time, fines of up to $5,000, and a license suspension for 12 months. Additional offenses bring heavier fines, more jail time, and extended license suspensions. A drunk driver may also have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle and mandatory attendance at a driving school.
Harsh legal and financial penalties are not always enough to discourage some individuals from driving under the influence. Drunk driving is to blame for more than half of all fatal car accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2018 alone.
How Do Drugs Affect Driving?
Beer, wine, and mixed drinks are not the only substances that affect a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Most illegal drugs and many legal drugs impair driving as well. Common drugs affect the body in the following ways:
- Marijuana: Slows reaction time, reduces coordination, and impairs judgement of time and distance.
- Opioids: Impairs thinking and judgement and increases drowsiness and dizziness.
- Cocaine and Methamphetamine: Increases risk-taking and aggressive driving.
When drivers combine different drugs or mix them with alcohol, the effects can be even more intense. Marijuana is one drug that can be detected with a blood test. After alcohol, marijuana is the most common substance found in the blood of drivers involved in auto accidents. Multiple studies confirm it is not safe to drive under the influence of marijuana. Drivers with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their systems are nearly twice as likely to cause deadly crashes or be killed in car accidents.
What are the Penalties for Drugged Driving?
In Pennsylvania, law enforcement has zero tolerance for drugged drivers. A driver suspected of drugged driving will be asked to take a blood and urine test. Refusal to consent can result in a suspended license. A first offense for drugged driving includes 72 hours to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Fines and jail time increase with each subsequent offense.
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, all offenders in Pennsylvania are required to complete an alcohol and drug evaluation prior to sentencing. The purpose of this evaluation is to assess if the driver has a substance abuse problem. In some cases, participation in a substance abuse program can reduce fines and penalties.
How to Prevent a Drunk or Drugged Driving Crash This Holiday Season
Once a person has consumed alcohol or drugs, they are more likely to consider driving impaired, which is why it is important to have a driving plan in place before taking any substances. Anyone who plans on drinking or taking drugs should designate a sober driver for the night. Also, a rideshare service is another way to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Can I Sue a Drunk or Drugged Driver?
Anyone injured by a negligent driver in Pennsylvania has the right to file a claim for losses after an accident. An individual who is injured in a drunk or drugged driving accident can take legal action by filing a civil lawsuit. An injured victim or surviving family members can sue to recover medical costs, lost income, and property damage resulting from a crash. The drunk driver’s insurance company generally pays out damages and can include pain and suffering.
What Should I Do After an Accident?
After any type of car accident, make sure to file a police report and document all property damage, medical treatment, and missed workdays. This evidence helps to prove liability and increase the chance of a successful outcome. National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month is an important reminder to make wise decisions this holiday season. No one should get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs. To learn more about the claims process for a drunk or drugged driving crash, contact a car accident lawyer.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Clients Injured by Drunk or Drugged Drivers
Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC represent victims injured by drunk and drugged drivers. If you were in a recent car accident, our legal team will work tirelessly to recover all of the damages you deserve. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-8488. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.