As Memorial Weekend approaches, many Arizonans will be traveling – and often drinking alcohol – more than usual. Now is a good time to reflect on the potential consequences of consuming alcohol or drugs – even prescription medications – and then driving.
“Drunk driving” is a commonly used term, but not a legal one; “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) or “driving under the influence” (DUI) better define the offense of operating a motor vehicle while impaired because of alcohol or drugs. The incidence of impaired driving in the United States is down from its peak as a result of the awareness raised by organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and state-funded campaigns, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still report a number of disturbing recent statistics related to alcohol and drugs-related driving. From the CDC website:
- In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
- Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
- In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
- Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
- Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
- Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), adds a particularly disturbing statistic: the average American has a 30% chance of being injured or killed by an impaired driver in their lifetime.
Young people, according to the CDC are particularly at risk, with about 30% of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes being between the ages of 21 and 24, and a further 29% between 25 and 34.
Aside from the obvious safety concerns, the penalties for driving while impaired in Arizona are among the stiffest in the country. A first-time offender will typically find themselves facing 24 hours to ten days in jail, a fine, a license suspension of 90 to 360 days, and the requirement that their vehicle be fitted with an interlock ignition device. A second offense implicates a 30-to-90-day jail sentence, increased fines, and a 1-year license suspension.
If you have been injured in an auto accident that involves an impaired driver, contact The Carroll Law Firm at 623-551-9366 for a free case evaluation. For those in the North Valley, we are conveniently located in Anthem, just off I-17.