The Statistics and Science of DUI’s
Between M.A.D.D buying up billboards all along the roads of America to commercials on television warning us that if we drink and drive, we’ll go to jail; Americans are convinced that drinking and driving is bad. The punishments for driving under the influence or while intoxicated are severe.
I could write an article about the death rates, or the cost to taxpayers, or the emotional grief that drinking and driving causes; but I just wanted to ask “Why?”. I didn’t want to get into the technicality of the law, just think rationally; is there a reason to restrict drinking and driving, and where is the evidence to prove it?
What exactly is dangerous about drinking and driving?
I’m a skeptical person. When I was a child, I was the kid in class always raising their hand asking “why?” until my teacher told me to shut up. I was raised to believe that a healthy dose of skepticism would allow you to be your own person and make your own decisions, for better or worse.
Naturally, when I started researching DUI’s and DWI’s the first question I had to ask was: What is the big deal?
The answer, I found out, is a simple combination. Alcohol impairs judgment from BAC levels of .01-.06; this means you’re going to make more risky decisions just because you got some alcohol in you. Then, from .06 to .10, your reflexes, reasoning, depth perception, judgment of distance, and peripheral vision start to fade.
Doesn’t that list seem to cover every skill needed for driving? Most people don’t realize how easy it is to get to .1; ever partied so hard that you wake up and can’t remember the night before. This is called blacking out, and that happens with BAC levels of .2-.29; more than 3 times the threshold of drunk driving.
The fact was: If you use a widely available and legal substance in excess, the very first things you lose are the skills you need to drive. It’s pretty clear what the “big deal” was, and why the limit is set at .08.
If you want to get an idea of just what all the effects are, and how easily you get there, check this link out: http://www.alcohol.vt.edu/Students/alcoholEffects/index.htm
If alcohol is so dangerous, why isn’t it more controlled?
In this country, we have the freedom to do what we like, within certain bounds. As a nation, we feel that the act of getting drunk is not a crime, so there have to be laws to dictate what activities involving booze endangers us all, and is therefore a crime. I was fascinated to find out that in terms of leniency of laws, the United States is one of the friendliest countries to drive drunk in.
Some countries are Zero Tolerance; which means if you get pulled over and have any alcohol in you, you’re in trouble. These aren’t all countries too far from home; in many parts of Canada new drivers have a zero tolerance policy. Most of the world, however, hovers between .03 and .05 percent. Countries just have to choose which level of liability they are willing to take.
While researching the topic, I found so many statistics about drinking and driving it was hard to know exactly what the real results are. I found articles saying that a BAC of .21 impairs reflexes by 40%, while others claimed a mere .08 could cut it by a hefty 20%.
I found myself getting lost in reflexes, vision, and speed that I had to stop myself. There isn’t a convenient equation taking all of the factors involved while driving drunk and spitting out a universal number. But the statistics of people’s actions; (Who got in an accident? Were they drunk? What was their BAC?) Is hard to deny.
A study in 1997, done in Australia, had this graph included in the article. It shows a statistical correlation between BAC, and greater risk of getting into an accident. Going from a BAC of .08 to .21 (a 262% increase), increases your risk from 4% to 31% (a 775% increase). It just seems that historically, the more alcohol human beings consumed before driving automobiles, caused more accidents to happen.
After you see the data on the BAC system, its pretty hard to remain skeptical about the law. My life is so busy that trying to figure out an exact measure of alcohol before I can drive is inconvenient. There are easy online calculators you can download to your smartphone to estimate BAC on the go. I’ll be more careful from now on, and be more aware of others if I’m driving near bars.
The whole study referenced is 80 pages, and concerns a lot more than drunk driving:
Pete Wise is a White-Hat SEO Jedi and Content Factory. This article was researched and written for Phil Clark, an experienced DUI Lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. Email or call the Clark Law Firm if you need a boulder attorney. Follow Pete on Twitter: @MySEOHeadache