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The numbers are frightening. More than 25,000 people lose their lives every year in alcohol-related accidents on U.S. highways. In our state alone, we saw a 1.7% increase in DUI arrests from 2004 to 2005; the previous year also experienced an increase. And as the problem continues to grow, the laws concerning drinking and driving will continue to become more strict.
At some point in our lives, maybe during a high school health class or an alcohol training class required by our cocktailing job in college, each of us has been schooled on the effects of alcoholic beverages. If you're feeling a little rusty, read on.
The stomach and small intestine pass the alcohol into your bloodstream, which in turn distributes it to all parts of your body. That's why a full stomach slows down the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream. The less you eat before tying one on, the faster you may feel alcohol's effects.
Food won't keep the alcohol from entering your bloodstream, but it will buy you some time, preventing the alcohol from quickly going to your brain.
Once the blood absorbs the alcohol and it flows throughout your body, your brain will enter a state of relaxation. If you are consuming alcohol faster than your body is processing it (one drink per hour of either a mixed drink made with one shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a 12-ounce beer) the parts of your brain that typically keep you in check while you are sober will ease up. The result is impaired judgment and the loss of control of your inhibitions.
Saturating your blood with alcohol can also affect your vision, reaction time, coordination, and balance. It's also not uncommon to experience a change in mood.
Now imagine if all these effects were taking place while you decided to get behind the wheel. It's a recipe for disaster, and as intoxicated individuals switch moods from giddy to angry, it can mean reckless, aggressive driving. Studies show that the fatal highway accidents involving such raging behavior, are mostly due to this combination of alcohol and anger.
If you have consumed too much alcohol, the only thing that will sober you up is time. You can try taking a cold shower or drinking some coffee that closely resembles jet fuel, but they won't dissolve the effects of being hammered. You will only become a wet, somewhat alert partygoer. Not a sober one.
Plain and simple, just don't do it. Once alcohol has become a part of your good time, driving should not. Your judgment may be impaired and you may not realize how intoxicated you really have become.
If your blood alcohol content (BAC) inches above .05%, you are twice as likely to cause an accident. As you soar close to .10%, your chances of being involved in a wreck is six time greater. And if you hit .15%, not only will you have a rough morning when you awake probably still wearing last night's attire, you will increase your chances of getting into an accident by 25 times.
While studies show that the highest number of alcohol-related accidents were the result of a beer binge, wine and liquor are just as likely to give you that dangerous buzz before driving.
Don't think you are getting away with driving while intoxicated for long if it is common practice for you. Police officers can easily pick up on a driver who shouldn't be behind the wheel. Here's how:
- The alcohol has given you a false sense of confidence, and you think you can handle putting the pedal to the metal. Speeding is a quick tip off.
- Your brain is swimming in alcohol; therefore you can't focus on the road and you have less control of your motor skills than normal. This causes you to drive erratically, causing the vehicle to weave.
- You know you should not be behind the wheel, but you are driving regardless. You are actually driving slower than normal because you are over-cautious in your current condition.
- Short mental lapses cause you to jerk the wheel or punch the gas pedal, causing your car to stroll down the road in a jerky motion.
- The alcohol has slowed your reaction time and also affected your sense of depth perception. You make abrupt stops at traffic lights and stop signs, instead of easing your way to a smooth halt.
The State if Idaho considers you Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if you fall under one of these three circumstances:
- Your BAC is .02% or more if you are younger than 21 years of age.
- Your BAC is .04% or more and you are operating a commercial vehicle.
- Your BAC is .08% or more and you are 21 or older. You can still be charged with DUI even if your BAC is less than .08% if you are under the influence of some other intoxicating substance(s).
You will get slapped with stiffer penalties should your BAC rise to more than .02%.
Your first conviction can mean up to six months in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, and the mandatory suspension of your driver's license from at least 90 days and up to 180 days. (If you are younger than 21, make it a year.) You will have zero driving privileges the first 30 days.
Get busted a second time, and you could be facing a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days to a full year (minimum 30 days for those who are younger than 21) and up to a $2,000 fine. This second conviction could cost you your driver's license for one year (or a two-year suspension if you are younger than 21).
With a third conviction (or more) within five years, you are looking at a felony conviction. Add to that mandatory time in the slammer from 30 days to five years, up to $5,000 in fines, and the suspension of your license for one to five years (two if you are younger than 21).
If you are cited for driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances and you have failed a roadside sobriety test, you will be served with a Notice of Suspension by the arresting officer. This is a document created and upheld by the Idaho Transportation Department in accordance with Section 18-8002A of the Idaho Code. If you so please, you can ask for an administrative hearing regarding the suspension before a department-designated hearing officer.
ALS is a civil penalty separate from the criminal ones listed above. If you are served an ALS, you must adhere to the requirements and also show up in court on your designated court date to deal with the criminal DUI charges that you are facing.
The notice goes into effect 30 days after you received it from the officer. Upon the first sobriety test failure, you are looking at a suspension of 90 days, the first 30 of which you will be granted no driving privileges at all.
The second failure that takes place within five years means your license will be suspended for one year, and you will have zero driving privileges.
If you are caught driving under the influence, you might wish to consult an attorney to help you with your case and defend you in court.