Title: D.U.I. | Drinking, Drugs & Driving
Author: Gayle Rosellini
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: March 2011
Catalog Number: 806

..Facing Facts

The facts are
already in. They’ve been in so long, in fact, that a lot of us
don’t pay much attention to them any more.

But they’re
still real and they still have massive impact when you consider
that they affect the lives of real people:

  • Fact: Alcohol figures into 37 percent of all traffic
    fatalities. In 2009, 10,839 Americans were killed in drinking-related
  • Fact: Nobody knows how many deaths that drug abuse adds
    to the total, only that it does. In a study at the University
    of Maryland, a third of accident victims had smoked pot prior
    to a crash.
  • Fact: Three of every five of us will be involved in
    an alcohol-related accident in our lifetimes.
  • Don’t like
    the facts — or the odds?

    Changing them
    means changing more than our attitudes about driving under the
    influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). It means changing our actions,
    and helping to change the actions of others.

    That’s why
    federal law required all states to adopt, by 2004, a uniform
    standard setting legal impairment at blood-alcohol content (BAC)
    levels of 0.08 percent, from the previous standard of 0.1 percent.

    And that’s also why we put together this pamphlet: to put things
    on a more personal level-like, say, your person and your level.

    Because there’s
    one more fact that many of us forget about drinking, drugs, and
    driving that we need to face: The next life that gets mangled
    by a driver who’s smashed could be ours — or someone we care

    ..A Night in the Life

    Jeff is a social
    drinker. He likes beer better than the hard stuff, doesn’t drink
    every day, doesn’t “crave” alcohol, and never gets
    falling-down drunk.

    He especially
    likes going out for drinks and a few games of pool on Saturday
    night. He’s driven home from the bar a thousand times without
    any trouble. Until tonight.

    • Fact: A 12-ounce beer, a glass of wine, and a shot of
      liquor all contain about the same amount of alcohol. Half of
      all DUI arrests involve beer alone.

    Jeff started
    drinking and shooting pool around 8 p.m., and closed out the
    bar at 1:00 a.m. About half a mile from his house, he was pulled
    over by an officer who noticed his car weaving. Jeff thought
    his driving was perfectly fine.

    • Fact: Alcohol affects higher-order brain skills (and
      turns a set of car keys into a potential weapon) long before
      a drinker “feels” drunk-or dangerous. As little as
      two drinks per hour can reduce alertness and slow decision-making

    When the officer
    asked Jeff if he’d been drinking, Jeff admitted that he’d had
    “a few,” even though he’d been in the bar for five
    hours and had dropped more than $40.

    • Fact: Drinkers consistently underestimate how much they’ve
      had to drink and how intoxicated-and impaired-they actually are.

    The officer
    ordered Jeff out of his car for a field sobriety test.

    He flashed
    a light in Jeff’s eyes, checked the color of his skin, and asked
    him to perform a few simple tasks, such as touching his nose
    with his eyes closed, standing on one foot, walking heel to toe,
    and reciting the alphabet. When Jeff failed the test, he protested,
    “I couldn’t do that stuff even if I wasn’t drinking.”

    • Fact: Almost all healthy, sober adults are able to complete
      these tasks without difficulty. Inability to pass these tests
      is a reliable indicator of driving impairment.

    The officer
    told Jeff he was under arrest for driving under the influence
    of intoxicants. He was frisked, handcuffed, and taken to the
    police station. His car was impounded.

    At the station,
    Jeff was asked to take a breathalyzer test to determine if he
    was over the legal DUI limit (.10 percent blood alcohol in most
    states; .08 percent in other states and Canada).

    • Fact: The amount of alcohol in a drinker’s body can be
      accurately measured with a breath test. Breath tests do work.

    Jeff was told
    that he had the right to refuse the breath test, but if he did,
    his driver’s license would be automatically suspended for three
    months. Jeff was willing to take the test because he thought
    it would prove that he wasn’t drunk.

    • Fact: Most drivers don’t think they’re drunk until they’re
      beyond legal levels of intoxication, levels that seriously impair
      driving ability. Jeff’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was
      .15 percent-almost double the legal limit in his state. But he
      still didn’t consider himself too drunk to drive.
    • Fact: Driving skills begin to suffer at BAC levels below
      .10 percent. In the year 2000, 3,523 people died in accidents
      involving drivers with BAC levels lower than .10 percent.

    Jeff was booked,
    fingerprinted, photographed, and strip-searched. Then he was
    allowed a phone call, and was locked up.

    Three hours
    later, he was released when his wife paid the $500 bail.

    It cost another
    $125 to get his car back from the impound lot.

    He had to take
    a day off work to meet with his lawyer. He’d planned on pleading
    not guilty. The lawyer told Jeff that they didn’t have much chance
    of winning, but that he’d take the case to trial if Jeff would
    pay his $1500 retainer-in advance. Jeff decided to plead guilty.

    He had to take
    another day off work to go to court.

    There, the
    judge fined him $500, ordered Jeff to attend a special DUI traffic
    school, and sentenced him to 24 hours in jail (suspended, if
    Jeff performed 20 hours of community service work).

    His driver’s
    license was revoked for six months.

    • Fact: In recent years, every state has toughened its
      penalties for DUI offenses. Most automatically suspend the license
      of first-time offenders, and many impose fines and jail sentences.

    Second time
    offenders can lose their license for up to a year and spend 10
    or more days in jail.

    Before his
    arrest, Jeff never thought of himself as anything but a social
    drinker. And he never considered himself a danger on the road.

    His arrest
    made him mad. His trial was expensive and humiliating.

    And he still
    wasn’t convinced he’d been too drunk to drive.

    He cooled his
    heels at home for a few weeks, but within a month he was back
    to his old tricks, drinking and dancing and shooting pool on
    weekend nights-and driving home.

    • Fact: Continuing to drink and drive after a DUI arrest
      is a sign of a potentially serious drinking problem.

    Experts say
    that three-fourths of people arrested two or more times for DUI
    are alcoholics.

    A year later,
    Jeff was arrested again. This time he lost his license for a
    year, was placed on probation, and fined $1,000. He was lucky.

    He hadn’t had
    an accident and he hadn’t created major problems for anyone but
    himself and his family.

    this time Jeff will learn that driving when he’s loaded is like
    firing a loaded gun in the middle of a busy street.

    You don’t have
    to hit someone to be a hazard to everybody.

    ..Over the Influence

    In spite of
    the best efforts of a lot of people, impaired drivers like Jeff
    continue driving up the body count on our streets and highways.

    It’s more than
    disturbing — it’s a disaster, aimed at each of us, just waiting
    to happen.

    Because the
    final, frustrating fact about drinking, drugs, and driving is
    this: It’s one problem that is totally preventable.

    Still, preventing
    the potential disasters that every impaired driver represents
    is going to require a lot more than sobriety checkpoints
    and public service ads.

    Because the
    real solution starts in the spot where each of us is standing
    (or sitting) right now — with a commitment not to drive if we’re
    impaired — and not to let our friends or family members drive
    when they’re impaired, either.

    Because even
    though the decision to modify, mangle, or medicate your moods
    with booze or other chemicals may be your business, taking it
    to the streets is everybody’s business.

    Keep it your business. 

    This is one in a series of publications
    on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation.
    Please call or write for a complete list of available titles,
    or check us out online at




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