Alcoholism is a significant problem impacting the United States. Statistics show that than an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. Another study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that in 2015, 86.4 percent of individuals ages 18 or older reported they drank alcohol at some point in their lives. Another 70 percent admit to drinking in the past year, while 56 percent said they drank in the past month.
Additionally, 26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. These startling statistics paint a picture of the reality many American’s are exposed to on a daily basis even if they do not drink. If you decide not to drink, when you get onto the road, it’s a possibility you are sharing it with someone who has been drinking. Drunk driving is deadly, and accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities in 2014.)
Drunk drivers are more likely to cause car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths than non-impaired drivers. There is no arguing with these facts. The sobering headlines and heartache are still not enough to keep drunk drivers from not getting on the road. With the emergence of rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, steering away from drunk driving has become more convenient than in times past.
Yet according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2010. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also states that nine percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the day were drunk, compared to 32 percent at night. Unfortunately, these figures represent one percent of the 112 million adults who self-report episodes of alcohol-impaired driving each year.
Since 2002, all 50 states consider drivers to be alcohol-impaired if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher, known legally as driving under the influence (DUI). About one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. An astonishing 28 people die each day as a result of drunk driving crashes. In 2010 alone, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes, which translates to one every 52 minutes.
In other words, if all 17 million people who admitted to drunk driving in 2010 had their own state, it would be the fifth largest in the United States. It’s frightening to know that statistics point to someone being drunk in the vicinity when we are operating our motor vehicle. Just because the numbers indicate the drunk drivers, many don’t get caught.
There is a story of a young man named Sean. He was a 22-year-old junior in college innocently drinking with his friends. He knew that he was in no condition to drive home, but neither was the buddy who gave him a ride. The operator of the vehicle walked away unscathed; however, Sean was not so lucky. Sean is now bound to a wheelchair and unable to speak. The only way he can communicate is a computer-generated voice.
A business major from Dallas, he had his entire life ahead of him, but before Easter Sunday in 2005, his life changed forever. While DUI charges are severe, they pale in comparison to some of the life sentences victims of drunk drivers go through. So what exactly happens when you get a DUI on your driving record?
What to Expect After a DUI
A DUI charge, while only a misdemeanor, is still considered a very serious offense, and those found guilty of it can face severe consequences. Some of these include:
- Significant fines
- A suspended license
- Increased insurance premiums
- Community service
- Mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) classes
- Jail time
The fines associated with a DUI charge can cost anywhere from $7,500, to $25,000 if you go to trial. Most of the costs consist of court fees, mandatory drug or alcohol classes, and potential property damage that may have been caused. If you break these DUI laws, you can find yourself unable to drive for up to a year in some states. This will inhibit your ability to get to work or have certain freedoms. So, how do you live your life after a DUI?
Long-Term Consequences of a DUI
If you have been convicted of a DUI, your first thought is to know how fortunate you are to be alive. As we have discussed in detail above, not everyone is so lucky. The initial steps are going to be overwhelming, and the biggest challenge is going to to be the shock and fear that begins to take hold.
The consequences of driving under the influence are well-documented, but many do not know what happens when you get a DUI on your driving record. Once convicted, you can have doubts about your ability to overcome this obstacle, but it is possible to regain traction of your life. You must stay strong during this time, and one piece of this process could be to get help for an alcohol problem.
The Penalties for Drunk Driving
Even if it is your first offense, you are going to face consequences when you are caught driving under the influence. The penalties will vary in severity based on the type of DUI you receive, and these include:
- Immediate arrest: If you are pulled over, and the officer(s) determine that you are operating the vehicle above the legal limit, you will be arrested and taken into custody. You will then be brought to a nearby station where you will be fingerprinted, take a mugshot, and then spend the night in a drunk tank. You will be given the option to call someone, but in some states, you may be required to stay until the alcohol has left your system.
- License Revocation: In many states, you automatically forfeit your license if you are guilty of drunk driving. The suspension can last up to two years. If you have a job that requires you to drive, you may lose that job. Those with exclusive licenses for driving, such as truck drivers, will lose their job, and may never be able to get the license back. In some states, DUI records can stay on your driving record for up to 15 years.
- Background Check: Your DUI will show up on a background check, and can potentially affect future jobs you may apply to. Colleges may also do a background check if you seek financial aid or apply for campus housing. Landlords can also conduct a background check, and it can make securing a house or apartment difficult.
- Insurance: You may be reeling from the fines once you’ve completed your courses and earned your license, but insurance rates are going to be inflated at this point. If you’re convicted of drunk driving, you are now considered as a high-risk driver, which is someone who has a higher potential of filing a claim on his or her insurance. Insurance fees can double or triple in size. The cost will decrease over time but expect to pay a lot in the beginning.
Recovering from a DUI conviction is difficult, but it is achievable with the right help. You must examine your life choices and figure out what brought you to this point. If you believe you’ve developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may need to get help. By doing so, it can also help your case in court to show the judge you are taking responsibility for your actions.