Holiday party season is in full swing. So cheers to you! But before you hit the road after hitting the bars, we’ve got a six-pack of reasons for designating a sober driver.
The best one, of course, is that you want to be alive and healthy in 2012. So here are the stats. The Centers for Disease Control says 30 people die in the U.S. every day from crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers. That’s one every 48 minutes and one-third of all crash deaths annually.
Drunk driving is expensive. On a national level, drunk drivers cost every one of us $500 a year. On a personal level, experts say driving under the influence could run you as much as $20,000! Fines, bail, car towing and impounding, attorney fees, cost of alternate transportation – they all add up. Plus you could lose your job and for certain you’ll be paying higher car insurance premiums, assuming your policy isn’t canceled outright.
Think you can beat the rap? It’s getting a lot harder. As of 2009, all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have made it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol count (BAC) of .08 or higher. Many police departments now set up routine random checkpoints, too. And don’t count on a smart lawyer getting you off because you refused the breathalyzer test. There’s a new program to address that issue.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood introduced a national No Refusal initiative in 2010, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is providing the tools to help states, counties and cities implement it. Basically, it lets police officers quickly obtain warrants from “on call” judges that give them the right to draw blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer tests. Because the warrant is expedited (15 minutes compared to a couple hours using the traditional process), there’s less time for your BAC to go down. Proponents (which include Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) say that BAC tests are viewed as far more reliable and conviction rates tend to spike when BAC results are introduced as evidence. They also claim the No Refusal policy results in more guilty pleas and fewer trials. The No Refusal programs are widely used in Texas and have caught on in other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Illinois and Missouri. Watch for them coming to a municipality near you.
Stay safe out there and keep your car insurance (and your life).