Utah DUI Attorney Perspective on Friends letting Friends Drive Drunk

An article written in the Daily Utah Chronicle surfaced today regarding friends letting friends drive Drunk.  The writer brings out some good points that I would like to highlight.

  • Being convicted of a DUI in Utah carries steep criminal penalties, including revocation of your driver’s license, jail time, fines and community service. These penalties increase and are compounded with every repeated DUI offense.
  • This New Year’s holiday weekend, the Utah Highway Patrol said it made just six arrests in Salt Lake and Utah counties for driving under the influence, and there were no DUI-related crashes.
  • under Utah’s laws, even if your BAC is less than .08 percent, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI if you are still driving impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The thing that is interesting about this article is all the doom and gloom statistics.  This thinking leads to punish the innocent for the sake of punishing the guilty.  What I mean by that is it is dangerous to assume that "most drunk drivers don’t get caught the first time they drive drunk. "  I had a judge mention this statistic once.  He then punished the guy for all the times "he did not get caught."  People should be judge by the crime at hand, not by the crimes they could have or even probably have committed.  We still believe in the presumption of innocence, don’t we?  Here’s the remainder of the article below.

Niedrich: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk
By: Anastasia Niedrich
Posted: 1/7/08
Every year, people celebrate the coming of the new year in different ways. Some people play board games and watch movies with their family, as I do. Others go out to eat and go dancing. Others drink alcohol and party, and some of them choose to drink and drive.

Those who drink or do drugs and drive in Utah risk being charged with two crimes: driving while under the influence and driving while over the limit — with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08 percent. For a 170-lb. male, it takes only three to four drinks to get to the legal limit. For a 135-pound female drinker, it takes only two to three drinks. This means that under Utah’s laws, even if your BAC is less than .08 percent, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI if you are still driving impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Being convicted of a DUI in Utah carries steep criminal penalties, including revocation of your driver’s license, jail time, fines and community service. These penalties increase and are compounded with every repeated DUI offense.

Why should college students like you care about this? Because national statistics show motorists between the ages of 21 and 34 are continuing to drink and drive more than those in any other age group. Last year, almost half the country’s motorists found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher were in this age group.

Worse yet, most drunk drivers don’t get caught the first time they drive drunk. K. Craig Allred, director of the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Office, said according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a person who chronically drinks and drives will drive impaired on average between 200 to 2,000 times before he or she is caught.

With statistics like these, we should consider ourselves to be very lucky there aren’t more deaths due to drunk driving. But this is not to say there aren’t enough deaths already.

During 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, 16,885 people in the United States died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, representing 39 percent of all traffic-related deaths. This means if we could put a stop to drunk driving, we could reduce auto fatalities by about 40 percent.

So how does Utah compare to the nation for DUI offenses and fatalities? One might think that Utah would not have much of a DUI problem. However, just a few years ago, Utah was climbing up the ranks and was near the top nationally for its high rate of DUI crashes and fatalities. Thankfully, due to an aggressive statewide media and law enforcement campaign in the past few years, Utah has decreased its DUI rate by about 50 percent. This New Year’s holiday weekend, the Utah Highway Patrol said it made just six arrests in Salt Lake and Utah counties for driving under the influence, and there were no DUI-related crashes.

While these statistics are promising, thousands of lives are still lost every year, and the Highway Patrol alone can’t stop drunk driving.

Some states and municipalities have implemented laws that require repeated DUI offenders to install Breathalyzer ignition locks in their cars. If the driver’s BAC is too high, the car ignition will lock. The driver can try to pass the test again once each hour until he or she is sober enough to pass the test and drive.

One thousand dollars per device sounds expensive until you consider the high number of DUI-related crashes, injuries and deaths each year and the resulting costs. Such incidents kill someone every 31 minutes and injure someone else every two minutes. Additionally, each year, alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost about $51 billion. For these reasons, I think it would be worth our government’s while to require these devices to be retrofitted in all cars on the road. Even with almost 250,000,000 cars on U.S. roads today, a program mandating the installation of a Breathalyzer ignition lock in every car would pay for itself in just four years, and save lives.

So what can you do to help for now? One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself about drunk driving so you can spread the word to others. Another thing you can do is take your friends’ or family members’ keys and prevent them from driving after they’ve been drinking. This may sound hard to do, but it’s not. Most people, when approached and advised not to drive because they seem too impaired, will hand you their keys willingly. For others, a good trick is to put their keys in a safe hiding place, like their freezer. When your friend wakes up in the morning or after he or she sobers up, you can tell him or her where the keys are hidden.

Working together, knowing our limits — and not testing them when we’re unsure — and preventing others from acting foolishly by driving under the influence, we can save many lives each year. As the slogan says and as we should do, "Friends don’t let friends drive drunk."

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Posted in Utah DUI Attorney

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