Driving under the influence of alcohol can be extremely dangerous for anyone on the road. The negative impacts of drunk driving are numerous, including impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and of course, car accidents. This article dives into some of the drunk driving statistics both in Virginia and in the US, as well as some of the effects of drunk driving and how they can be prevented.
Demographic Overview of Drunk Drivers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as of 2018 the 21 to 24-year-old age group has the highest number of drunk driving deaths in the US, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds, and drivers aged 15-20. In addition, male drunk driving fatalities comprise 80.4% of total drunk driver fatalities.
“Unfortunately, many young drivers feel invincible when first starting out behind the wheel, and this can lead to very poor decisions.” said Attorney Matthew Wilson of Matthew Wilson Attorney at Law. “It is important for young drivers to be educated on the real dangers of drunk driving in a way that helps them to understand the dangers both to themselves and others.”
Overall, the groups that are most at risk for drunk driving are the younger age groups (as previously mentioned), motorcyclists, and drivers that have previous DUI convictions on their records. According to the state DMV 2018 crash statistics in Virginia, over two-thirds of DUI convictions were found to be male, and the majority of drunk drivers were between the ages of 21 and 40.
Drunk Driving Laws and Their Effects
Across the US, federal traffic laws are in place to prevent drunk driving. The federal level of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) considered to make a driver legally impaired is 0.08 or higher. Any defendant in the US guilty of this can have a federal DUI offense, which is a Class B Misdemeanor. A DUI conviction can involve penalties such as up to 6 months of jail time, up to 5 years of federal probation, a fine of up to $5,000, or mandatory alcohol safety education courses.
DUI penalties can be even more severe for members of the armed services and can vary by state. In Virginia, a law was passed in 2012 that mandates any first-time DUI offender must have installed a Certified Ignition Interlock Device (CIID) in their vehicle before they are permitted to drive again. This is mandatory for at least 6 months without any alcohol violations. With a first time DUI, the person will lose their license for a year; with a second offense, there will be a 3-year driver’s license suspension, and with a third conviction, 20 days in jail if the offense is within 5 years.
In 2020, the DUI penalties became even more severe in Virginia. As an effect of the new law HB1941, the offense of drunk driving that causes impairment to another person will increase from a class 6 felony to a class 4 felony, which means 2-10 years of jail time. The law also makes drunk driving a class 6 felony if it causes serious harm to the person but is not permanently disabling.
Drunk driving is a serious issue that comes with significant repercussions, but can be easily prevented. Younger drivers should be educated on the harmful effects it can have on one’s life before it is too late. An impaired driver has many options that do not include driving themselves, including using popular rideshares like Uber or Lyft, spending the night at a safe place nearby, or creating a clear plan with a designated driver before deciding to drink. Drunk driving is never the right choice.