Table of Contents

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Effects of Alcohol on Driving

An image of a crash

The slightest dulling of the senses can keep a driver from making the right decisions to avoid crashes.

Alcohol and drugs can significantly slow a person's motor skills and ability to react quickly. When a split-second can mean the difference between survival and sudden death, the slightest dulling of the senses can prevent a driver from making the right decisions to avoid crashes. Here are some skills that are required for driving and how they are affected by alcohol:

Eye Movement - Alcohol and drugs hamper your ability to follow moving objects increasing the likelihood of losing sight of nearby vehicles. Many intoxicants, especially alcohol, decrease a person's ability to maintain focus and limit peripheral vision. Hand-eye coordination, which is essential to steering, also decreases with alcohol and drug use.

An image of a front-end collision on school grounds

Simulations of the aftermath of a drunk driving crash help to raise awareness.

Reaction Time - As alcohol slows down your body, your reaction time increases. You take longer to read street signs or respond to changes and obstacles in the road, like sudden red lights or a vehicle pulling in front unexpectedly. If it normally takes you about one second to react to a hazard on the road and put your foot on the brake pedal, it may take you at least twice as long to react. At 40 mph, you normally need 60 feet to react, but with alcohol, you'd have already traveled at least 120 feet before you respond! When you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you compensate by seeking out less information and are therefore less aware of your surroundings. If you are intoxicated, and the environment around you is the street or highway, there is no telling how many "reactions" fate will force you to make. The lack of advance warning with which these environmental changes most often occur makes the road one of the worst places to be for an intoxicated person who cannot quickly react to changes.

An image of a BAC chart

Multi-tasking - Properly operating a motor vehicle requires a driver to be on top of multiple tasks at the same time. When you've been drinking you tend to focus on one task at a time. "OK, I'm steering. OK, I'm going too fast. OK, now I have to turn. OK, the light is turning red. OK, I have to brake." The one-track mindset of an impaired driver leads to the thousands of DUI-related deaths in the nation each year. There is only one-way to combat this: you must employ a zero-tolerance policy against driving when you have consumed alcohol and/or drugs.

Collision Potential

With a BAC between .05 and .09, you are about eleven times more likely to get into a collision. Your chance of crashing increases 48 times with a BAC between .10 and .14, and it goes up about 380 times with a BAC of .15 or higher! The chart above shows the driving skills that are affected at certain BAC levels. Note that impairment can begin at levels under the limits set by law.

CAUTION: Alcohol affects everyone differently and cannot be measured accurately by charts. Impairment can begin at low BAC levels. NEVER drive after drinking!

Telltale Signs of an Impaired Driver

In addition to violating basic traffic laws, the impaired driver often exhibits the following driving traits:

A. Speeding - Alcohol affects a person's ability to decide right from wrong and to judge safety in general. Impaired drivers often speed and take unsafe risks behind the wheel.

B. Driving Slowly - In a futile attempt to hide their intoxication, impaired drivers often drive substantially below the speed limit.

C. Weaving - Drinking drivers lose their focus on the road and may fall asleep or simply lose control of the vehicle. Coordination begins to deteriorate, with weaving the most obvious and common driving trait.

An image of a car weaving

Intoxicated drivers often have difficulty turning correctly.

D. Turning Difficulty - A drinking driver may signal to turn one way and then erratically turn the other way. It is very common for the impaired driver to make unusually wide or narrow turns. Motor skills are at extremely diminished levels.

E. Lane Straddling - Drinking drivers often use lane-dividing lines as guides to stay on the road. This is an obvious indication of an intoxicated driver whose focus is lost and is making every attempt to stay on the road.

F. Tailgating - Tailgating is a basic driving violation, but it is especially common with the drinking driver. Vision becomes impaired, depth is distorted, and the eyes react more slowly to lights.

G. Lights - Alcohol adversely affects basic brain functions, such as memory. An impaired driver may overlook the need to turn on the headlights, resulting in a dangerous situation with a dark car on the road.

H. Open Windows - A drinking driver often believes cold air will keep him or her awake while driving. An open car window in cold weather late at night is often a sure sign that its driver is intoxicated.

I. Jerky Movements - Drinking drivers often start or stop suddenly.

Road Awareness

If just one DUI driver each night emerges from a local bar, restaurant, or establishment serving alcohol and takes to the road, imagine the number of intoxicated drivers on our roads. As you can probably imagine, more than one intoxicated person leaves these establishments each night and flood the highways. Late at night on the weekends are consequently peak times for drinking drivers on the road.

Avoiding Impaired Drivers

If you spot any of the above actions in a driver, or you suspect that driver to be impaired, be prepared to take quick, evasive action. Never attempt to pass an impaired driver's vehicle or follow too closely. That is not your responsibility, and doing so may endanger you. If possible, avoid pulling over to the shoulder if you are being tailgated. A driver who is under the influence may use your tail lights to stay within traffic and thus may hit you from behind if you stop. Instead, make a quick turn at the nearest intersection or parking lot when it is safe, and return to your route after that driver passes.

NEVER attempt to stop an impaired driver! Instead, contact law enforcement and allow the authorities to handle the situation. Be prepared to give a detailed description when you make the report. You can report a drunk driver or any highway emergency by dialing 911 on your cell phone. Be sure you pull off the road first or have your passenger handle the call.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? A police officer may stop anyone who appears to be driving while under the influence of alcohol or another drug. The above describes some driving behaviors that may give the police reasonable cause to stop you, but sometimes they are not enough. What are some other signs you think will definitely give the police reasonable cause to arrest someone for driving under the influence? List at least three below.

[ CLICK HERE to add an entry to your Journal ]

Field Sobriety Tests

An image of a field sobriety test

The nystagmus test is a type of field sobriety test used to see if the eyes have been affected by alcohol.

Police officers usually can tell if a driver is intoxicated, whether that person has ingested alcohol or drugs. If they suspect DUI, they may ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test. Some symptoms of intoxication include:

  1. Flushed face.
  2. Bloodshot eyes (watery, red and/or glossy).
  3. Scent of alcohol on breath.
  4. Slurred speech.
  5. Difficulty getting license out of wallet.
  6. Inability to comprehend the officer's questions.
  7. Wobbling or staggering when getting out of the vehicle.
  8. Swaying or instability when standing.
  9. Using the vehicle for support.
  10. Inappropriate attitude towards the police officer.
  11. Soiled or disorderly clothing.
  12. Stumbling when walking.
  13. Disorientation as to time and place.
  14. Inability to follow directions.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The field sobriety test, or FST, involves a field determination of a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle. The test given may include the following:

Balance Test - A driver may be asked to raise one leg off the ground and touch his or her nose with the index finger. A drinking driver's equilibrium is affected, causing this person to have trouble with this simple balance skill.

An image of a breathalyzer being used on a man

The breath test is a more formal type of test.

Walking a Straight Line - An officer may ask the driver to walk along a line on the roadway, moving his or her feet heel to toe and repeating. Again, balance is observed.

Counting Backwards - Speech is dramatically affected when alcohol is consumed. Counting backwards will reveal slurred speech patterns, as well as one's ability, or lack thereof, to concentrate on a simple task.

Touching Finger Tips - Basic coordination is influenced adversely by alcohol. When asked to touch fingertip to fingertip, the drinking driver often has extreme difficulty.

Following Directions - The officer may ask the driver to perform a series of simple tasks a specific way. This often helps officers to determine a person's sobriety level. Following basic directions is very difficult when alcohol is introduced to the brain.

Nystagmus Test - The nystagmus test relies on the effect that alcohol consumption has on the ocular nerves. Consumption of alcohol slowly weakens the eye muscles to the point where the eye can no longer follow in "smooth pursuit" of the finger or object being moved horizontally by the peace officer. An expert in this field (the peace officer) will verify that the fluttering or twitching of the ocular muscle is a direct result of the alcohol.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Examine each of the different types of field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approves just three of these tests: the balance test, walking in a straight line, and the nystagmus test. What do you think makes these particular tests effective?

[ CLICK HERE to add an entry to your Journal ]

DUI Statistics

An image of a bar graph

Statistics help us see the devastating effects of alcohol on driving.

Statistics often substantiate causation better than anything else. Driving statistics show the devastating effects alcohol has on a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle. The following are some national statistics (unless otherwise noted) and many are consistent from year to year and decade to decade.

A. There is a DUI arrest rate of one in every 143 licensed drivers in the U.S.

B. Approximately 300,000 people are seriously injured annually in alcohol-related accidents.

C. Over one-half of the people killed in alcohol-related accidents are drinking drivers, 20% passengers in the vehicle, and 17% occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians.

D. Over 90% of drinking drivers attending alcohol treatment centers (i.e., AA) return within three years, indicating another DUI arrest.

E. Between midnight and 4 a.m., approximately 80% of all fatally injured drivers have been drinking.

F. Roughly 40% of drivers on the road after midnight on the weekends are over the .08% DUI level.

G. The leading cause of death among teenagers is alcohol-related vehicle accidents. Drivers under 18 yrs. old have a risk of being involved in a fatal accident that is 2.5 times greater than that of the average driver.

H. It has been estimated that a person arrested for his or her first DUI has been driving on the roads between 200-1200 times while intoxicated, without being arrested for DUI.

I. Approximately 25% of every dollar spent on automobile insurance premium is allocated towards drunk driving-related damages.

J. Three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident at some point in their lives.

K. In 2007, there were 373 traffic-related deaths in Nevada, and 118 were a result of alcohol-impaired-driving (or 32%).

L. The most frequently committed violent crime in the United States is driving under the influence of alcohol, with more than 1.4 million arrests annually.

M. Nationwide in 2007, there were 250 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities per week, 36 per day and 2 per hour.

N. A driver with a BAC of .15% or higher is 300 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than a driver who has not consumed alcohol.

O. Each year, one percent of all licensed drivers are arrested for driving under the influence, more than for any other crime.

P. Drivers with a BAC of .15% or higher account for nearly 2/3 of all alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities.

Q. Each day, eight people under the age of 21 die in an alcohol-related collision.

R. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 make up 6.4% of the total driving population, but they account for over 13% of the drivers in alcohol-related fatalities.

S. College students spend $5.5 billion each year on alcohol. Students typically spend more money each year on alcohol than they do at the college bookstore.

T. It is estimated that one out of every 280 babies born today will die in an alcohol-related crash.

U. The major cause of death for children 0 to 14 years of age is traffic collisions; of these collisions, 15% are caused by alcohol-impaired-driving.

Positive Statistics

Although these alcohol-related traffic statistics paint a grim picture, it's not all bad! These statistics show that we have at least made some progress over the years.

A. According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 26,333 lives were saved between 1975 and 2007 due to minimum drinking age laws.

B. The number of traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes dropped nearly 4% from 13,491 in 2006 to 12,998 in 2007.

C. From 1982 to 1999, the number of young drivers that died in an alcohol-related traffic crash where another young driver was involved decreased 62%.

D. Due to new minimum drinking age laws, lower BAC laws, and groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), countless lives are being saved each year.

By educating our children on the dangers of drinking and driving, we should be able to lower these numbers even more.

There is a tendency for motorists to relax during holidays. The mind is at ease, and thoughts are on upcoming festivities. The truth, however, is that the most dangerous times to be on the road are during the holidays. People are drinking alcohol more, more chaos associated with children in the vehicle exists, and the overall driving task is made more difficult.

Statistics don't lie...alcohol, motor vehicles, and people don't mix!

(Source of some statistical information derived from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD))

Video: "Just Another Saturday Night"

The statistics cited above are only one way to demonstrate the threat that drunk driving has to our safety. The following video examines the events and decisions that led up to a drunk driving incident and the impact it has on those affected.

Video: "Just Another Saturday Night"
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If you ever have to make the decision whether to drink and drive, consider the effects your actions will have on others. Regardless of whether you drink or not, an encounter with a drunk driver is not one you want to have either, especially on the road. Be sure to stay alert for possible drunk drivers so you do not become a victim.

DUI Prevention

What can you do to eliminate or reduce the risk of driving under the influence?

First of all, the best way to eliminate this risk is to avoid drinking any alcohol, especially because this is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age. In any case, here are a few solutions:

  • Have friends make arrangements before attending a party at your home, school or work (i.e., stay over or rent a room at a nearby hotel, call a taxi, designate a non-drinking driver, etc.)
  • Confiscate all keys at the door of your home if hosting. Do not return keys to intoxicated drivers.
  • Be firm. Remember: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."
  • Set an example. Show disapproval of people who insist they can drive even though they are intoxicated.
  • Call the police, if necessary.
An image of a drinker and a designated driver

A designated driver is a friend who steps forward to help another.

Designated Driver Program - A designated driver is someone who refrains from drinking alcoholic beverages in order to be responsible for everyone else by taking them home. The designated driver program was developed to help deter drinking and driving while encouraging sober, designated drivers. This works best when one person in a group takes responsibility for his or her companions. This person will drive the others home, ensuring that those who may be intoxicated and dangerous are not on the roads.

Designated drivers often receive support from the establishments where they and their friends drink and eat. Sometimes they will even receive complimentary (read: free) non-alcoholic drinks and food, though that is up to each establishment. Some of the requirements to participate as a designated driver include:

  • Must possess a valid driver's license.
  • Must be in a group of two or more people.
  • Must be able to identify yourself verbally.
  • Must not consume any alcoholic beverage throughout the evening.
  • Should be at least 21 years of age.
  • Must understand that management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.

These programs have helped contribute to a decline in DUI-related deaths. Drinkers often cannot consciously help themselves and need a friend to step forward. Designated Drivers Save Lives!

Handling Peer Pressure

Sometimes people in a group will feel pressured to drink. Always remember that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. It's also perfectly okay to just say no. You do not owe anybody an explanation. A person who ridicules you for not drinking is probably insecure. Here are a few things you can say in respond to someone trying to make you drink:

  • "No, thanks. It's not for me."
  • "I don't like the smell (or taste) of alcohol."
  • "I know someone who died from drinking alcohol, so I don't want to do it."
  • "I don't want to start because I'm trying to get (a family member, a friend, etc.) to quit."

This also works the other way around. If you have a friend who likes to drink and drive, you probably have mutual friends who can help you discourage him or her from drinking.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Imagine that you and a few friends are at a party. Each of you drank a little too much alcohol, so none of you can drive the others home. Below, list at least three appropriate actions you can take to ensure that you and your friends do not drive while drunk.

[ CLICK HERE to add an entry to your Journal ]

Ways to Sober Up

An image of a woman sleeping

Only sleep and time will allow the body to dispose of alcohol.

There is no easy remedy for chronic or short-term abuse of alcohol. The only way to sober up is to allow the body time to absorb and dispose of alcohol in the system. The liver takes care of this through a process called "oxidation." Many people believe that eating and drinking are viable ways to dilute alcohol in the system, but these are misconceptions. You can drink water while drinking to dilute the alcohol in the body, which may lessen the effects on the brain; however, this does not reduce the BAC. Water cannot reverse the effects of hours of drinking. Nothing can be done to either slow down or speed up the liver's oxidation rate.

The Only Proven Solution: Sleep and Time

An image of a clock

It takes the body about one hour to oxidize one ounce of alcohol.

As a depressant, alcohol usually induces sleep. This allows the body time to eliminate alcohol. Time allows the body to absorb the alcohol. The body can only oxidize about one ounce of alcohol per hour, meaning a BAC of .08% would require at least eight hours to be fully absorbed by the body.

What About Caffeine?

It is an enduring myth that the caffeine in coffee can sober one up. This is not true. Only time can lower the alcohol concentration in the blood, and the body needs much more time to metabolize and eliminate alcohol than to drink it. While caffeine can help wake people up, it still leaves them impaired. Using stimulants like the caffeine in coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks or "stay awake pills" to overcome fatigue on long drives or night trips can also lead to trouble. The stimulant effects can wear off suddenly, leaving someone who is very tired to potentially fall asleep at the wheel.

An image of coffee

Coffee may help you wake up, but it cannot eliminate alcohol from your body.

SUMMARY... As of now, no one has discovered a quick way to extract alcohol from the body. Several problems occur when you consume too much alcohol:

  • Alcohol disrupts your sense of balance when it reaches your inner ear.
  • Alcohol inflames liver cells by trapping needed nutrients and waste products in the liver.
  • Alcohol causes you to have a poor night's rest by disrupting your sleep phases.
  • Alcohol causes dehydration.

Traditional remedies do not work. Coffee may give you a caffeine boost, but that will not ease the symptoms. Fruit juice may re-hydrate the body a bit, but it also may upset your stomach, as will aspirin. REST IS THE ONLY WAY TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE.

DUI Laws

Nevada has strict laws to punish drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, whether they are driving or are in actual physical control, which can mean simply sitting in the driver's seat. Discussed below are the important laws related to drinking and driving that you need to know.

An image of a man being arrested

Refusing to submit to testing for alcohol may result in your arrest.

Illegal Per Se Law (Admin Per Se) - When the level of alcohol in your blood system reaches .08%, you are legally DUI, or driving under the influence. Under Nevada's Illegal Per Se Law, if you have an alcohol concentration of .08% or more, your driving privilege will be revoked. If you are under the age of 21 and a chemical test shows an alcohol concentration of .02%, but less than .08%, you will lose your driving privilege to suspension. The officer can take your license on the spot if either of these two instances occurs. You can be arrested for DUI with a lower AC than .08% if the officer believes you are too impaired to drive, even if you are 21 or older.

If a person were to consume one alcoholic drink per hour, the driver would most likely not be in danger of getting near .08%. Conversely, increased consumption of alcohol over a short period of time would most likely lead to an illegal AC. For example, a 150 lb. male or female consuming four alcoholic beverages (one ounce each) over a two-hour period would have an AC of .086% if a male and .105% if a female. This exemplifies the need for individuals of varying weights and tolerances to know their own limitations. However, there is no safe way to ever drive while under the influence. Even trace amounts of alcohol can still dramatically affect many drivers. Alcohol can affect individuals in many different ways with minimal amounts doing substantial damage to one's self-control. Alcohol alters behavior and causes a driver to become mentally and physically impaired. Even one alcoholic drink can make you an unsafe driver on the road.

Implied Consent Law - If you are pulled over, and an officer suspects you are driving under the influence, you will be asked to take a blood, breath, or urine test. You cannot refuse these tests because under Nevada law, when you accepted your driver's license, you gave consent to have your alcohol concentration tested when asked by an officer. If you refuse, the officer is required by law to seize your license or permit to drive and arrest you. Once in police custody, refusal to submit to an alcohol test will result in additional charges. If you are under 18, the police will first attempt to contact your parents or guardians before testing you.

Open Container Law - Driving with an open container of alcohol in the car is against the law. You must keep all containers that are not sealed in sections of the vehicle that you cannot access while driving, such as a car trunk or truck bed. It is legal to have a container of liquor, beer or wine in your car only if:

  • It is full.
  • It is sealed.
  • It is unopened.

If you are under 21, you cannot drive with any alcohol in your car. However, there are some exceptions that are discussed below.

Underage Drinking Laws

An image of a teenager pulled over by a cop

Nevada has a strict law against underage drinking.

Zero Tolerance Law - Nevada has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking. It is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to purchase, possess or consume alcoholic beverages. This means that if you are under 21, it is unacceptable and thus illegal for you to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol, which is set at .02%.

The basis for the zero tolerance law comes from other Nevada laws that restrict alcohol use by minors in general. Below are the other laws that have to do with underage drinking.

Purchase of, or Possession by Persons Under 21 Years of Age of Alcoholic Beverages - In Nevada, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase, consume or possess alcohol. There are some exceptions to this law. You are allowed to have alcohol in your possession if:

  • it is for an established religious purpose;
  • you are in the presence of a parent, spouse or legal guardian who is 21 or older;
  • it is for a prescription from a licensed physician or other person who can give out prescriptions;
  • you are in a private club or private establishment (such as your home); or
  • it is a part of the job if you work for an employer who is licensed to sell, handle, serve or transport alcoholic beverages.

If you violate this law, you commit a misdemeanor and may lose your license to suspension (if you are under 18, you may lose your driving privilege for up to two years either to suspension or a delayed issuance of your license). If you had been drinking while driving, you will be charged under the zero tolerance law.

Providing Alcohol to Persons Under 21 - To back the zero tolerance law, Nevada makes it illegal for anyone over 21 years of age to give minors alcohol. This also applies to businesses. If you get an older friend to give you alcohol when you are still a minor, you are asking that friend to commit a misdemeanor. A conviction means jail and a fine for that person. Your friend can also be sued if you cause damages resulting from being under the influence. But since Nevada does not have a "dram shop" law (which holds businesses liable for damages caused by a drunk driver), this does not apply to people who are licensed to provide alcoholic beverages or work for someone who does if doing so is part of their duties.

Use of False Identification / Misrepresentation of Age - Many young people use fake IDs so they can purchase alcohol. However, it is illegal to use false identification in Nevada. This includes verbal and written statements, as well as possessing or using a false, altered or borrowed license or ID card. If you misrepresent your age to obtain alcohol, you commit a misdemeanor.

Entering Saloons - Some places do not permit young people under 21 to enter. These include saloons, bars, casinos, clubs and other places where alcohol is the primary product being served. Since they can be fined up to $500 for allowing minors to stay, many of these places employ people who check each person's ID before permitting entry. If you are under 21 and still manage to get in, expect to pay a fine of up to $500 if you are caught. Other places that sell or serve alcohol, such as restaurants and grocery stores, do not restrict minors because alcohol is not the primary product.

Journal Question

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Zero tolerance laws are seen as having helped to reduce the number of teenage deaths due to alcohol. Yet there are some who contend that these laws actually increase the number of those who drink and drive. That group includes some safety experts. What do you think? Are zero tolerance laws the most effective means to reduce drinking and driving among teenagers? If not, what do you think are better alternatives that will accomplish this? Jot down your thoughts below.

[ CLICK HERE to add an entry to your Journal ]

DUI Penalties

This is a simple fact of life: If you break the law, you must pay the price. However, if you drink and drive, you may also pay with your life. There are two different types of penalties under Nevada's Driving Under the Influence laws:

  • Civil (Administrative): The Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety takes this action against a driver, regardless of any actions taken by the court. This action is typically in the form of license suspensions or revocations.
  • Criminal: This is the action the court will take against anyone found driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Penalties imposed by the court include jail time and fines.

Both types of actions are taken against DUI offenders, and they are decided separately.

Administrative - Your driver's license is revoked for 90 days if you are found driving with an AC of .08% or higher. If you are under 21 years old and are found driving with an AC of .02% or higher, your license will be suspended for 90 days.

Criminal - The punishment for a DUI will vary with the level of intoxication, in addition to other variables, but listed below are some penalties to expect (civil penalties are included and are marked as such):

An image of a man behind bars

A DUI conviction will lead to jail time.

First DUI offense

  • Your license will be revoked for 90 days. After 45 days, you can apply for a restricted license.
  • A jail sentence of 2 days to 6 months, or 96 hours of community service.
  • A fine of $400 to $1000.
  • Payment of tuition for DUI school (averaging $150).
  • You may be ordered to attend a treatment program if you had an AC of .08% or higher.

Second DUI offense within seven years

  • License revoked for one year, and you will not be eligible for a restricted license.
  • Jail sentence of 10 days to 6 months.
  • A fine of $750 to $1000.
  • 100 to 200 hours of community service.
  • Your vehicle registration will be suspended.
  • You may be ordered to attend a treatment program or be placed under clinical supervision of a treatment facility for treatment for up to one year.

Subsequent DUI offense within seven years

  • License revoked for three years.
  • Prison sentence of one to six years.
  • A fine of $2000 to $5000.
  • Your vehicle registration will be suspended.
  • You may be ordered to attend a treatment program for a minimum of three years.

DUI which causes death or serious injury

  • License revoked for three years, and you will not be eligible for a restricted license.
  • Prison sentence of two to 20 years.
  • A fine of $2000 to $5000.

Felony DUI Convictions

  • Once you have been convicted of a felony DUI, all subsequent DUI violations will be considered felonies. You will face a minimum of 2 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 for each conviction.
  • If you have three prior DUI convictions and then cause a death on a fourth or subsequent DUI, expect to spend 25 years to life in prison.
  • The 7-year period normally used to consider prior DUI convictions do not apply to either of the above; felony DUI convictions remain on your record indefinitely. If you spent time in prison, were confined in a treatment facility or your home, or were on parole or probation, the related offenses will also stay on your record permanently.

DUI Laws for Young Drivers

Laws for young drivers who drive under the influence are similarly harsh. Below are some penalties to expect if you are under the age of 21 years:

  • If you are under the age of 21 years and have an AC of .02% to .08%, your license will be suspended for 90 days.
  • If you are a licensed driver under the age of 18 and are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, your license will be revoked for 90 days.
  • The conviction will remain on your record for seven years.
  • The court will require you to undergo evaluation for alcohol and drug abuse.
  • The judge may order you to attend an alcohol or drug treatment program.

Ignition Interlock Devices

In certain cases, you will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device. This device measures the level of alcohol in your blood and will prevent the engine from starting if you have an AC of .05% or higher. You are responsible for all costs associated with its use, and you must report to the DMV to ensure that it is properly working.

Commercial Driver License

An image of a truck

Commercial drivers convicted of DUI face more severe penalties.

As professional drivers, operators of commercial vehicles are held to a higher standard. This means penalties for DUI are more severe. Any detectable amount of alcohol will affect your driving privilege. An AC of 0.04% is considered driving under the influence for commercial drivers and will result in criminal penalties. Here are some to expect:

  • 1st offense - commercial license suspended for one year, three years if the vehicle is placarded for hazardous materials.
  • 2nd conviction or if death results from a DUI collision - lifetime disqualification from commercial driving.
  • Harsher DUI penalties such as longer jail sentences or larger fines may apply based on a judge's discretion.

Other penalties associated with a DUI:

  • If you are arrested for DUI, you will not be released from jail until you have reached an AC of .04% or lower. If other drugs are involved, you will have to stay in jail for a minimum of 12 hours.
  • If you are found guilty of driving under to the influence, and you had passengers under the age of 15 in the vehicle, the court will consider that as an aggravating factor in determining your sentence.
  • If you plead guilty or are convicted of driving under the influence, and a chemical test was administered, the court will charge a $60 fee to cover the costs of the chemical analysis.
  • You will be charged with a felony for the following offenses if you are also convicted of DUI:
    1. Refusing to stop your vehicle; or
    2. Eluding a police officer.

Getting Treatment for a DUI

Sometimes a judge will allow (or require) you to attend a treatment program for alcohol or drug abuse, but this option is not open to everyone. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to a first, second or third DUI offense, you may request this treatment if you meet these conditions:

  1. You are diagnosed as an alcoholic or drug abuser by:
    1. A licensed or certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor; or
    2. a physician certified to make the diagnosis;
  2. You agree to pay the costs of the treatment up to what you can afford;
  3. You have served or will serve part of your sentence (if a 1st or 2nd DUI); and
  4. You have not previously requested treatment (if one or two previous non-felony DUI convictions).

If the court accepts your request, the court will enter a sentence but suspend it for up to three years (for a 1st or 2nd DUI) or suspend all further proceedings and place you on probation for up to five years (for a 3rd DUI) on the condition that you are accepted for treatment by a treatment facility, complete the treatment satisfactorily, and comply with any other conditions from the court.

If you are accepted for treatment, you may be placed under supervision for three years (1st or 2nd DUI) or five years (3rd DUI). During treatment, you may be kept in an institution or, at the facility's discretion, released for treatment or supervised aftercare. Successful completion will result in a reduced sentence, although your offense will stay on your record.

If you are not accepted by a facility or do not complete the treatment satisfactorily, you must serve the remainder of your sentence (1st or 2nd DUI). For a 3rd DUI, the court will impose the sentence for a third DUI offense. Any time you served behind bars will count as time served toward your sentence.

Requirements for a 3rd DUI

To participate in a treatment program following a 3rd DUI, you must do all of the following:

  1. Serve at least six months confined in an institution for treatment;
  2. Install an ignition interlock device at your expense, which must remain for at least 12 months;
  3. Drive only a vehicle equipped with the ignition interlock device.
  4. Agree to be subject to periodic testing for alcohol or drugs while participating in the treatment program; and
  5. Agree to any other conditions that the court believes are necessary.

The Cost of a DUI

A DUI can be quite expensive, but if you think those fines are bad, you haven't seen the other costs. Other costs associated with getting a DUI for the first time include

An image of a car being towed

Your vehicle may be towed away if you are convicted of DUI.

  • Vehicle Towing - $50 - $200
  • Lawyer - $2000 - $4000
  • Insurance Increase - $1500+ (usually 2 to 4 times more than the standard premium or higher)
  • Lost Wages - $1000+
  • Court Costs - $450
  • Treatment - $4000
  • DUI School - $175 - $225

As you can see, the cost of those few drinks can go from just $5.00 to an excess of $10,000. You can probably think of much better ways to spend $10,000. Don't forget that the cost of a second offense increases even more.

Personal Effects of DUI - A DUI conviction can be harsh on your personal life, and it comes in many forms. They can include civil suits and costs leading to loss of assets. You could lose your job (or get kicked out of school), your self-respect, or the respect of family and friends. Think about how you would explain to your child or friend that you could no longer pick him/her up from school because your license had been suspended? And don't forget the humiliation of being in jail! JUST DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!