The numbers are startling. Despite decades of campaigns against drunk driving, in 2017, 10,874 people were killed by drunk drivers. Of those killed, 61% of the drivers had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher.
BAC is a scientific term that is critical to understanding drunk driving, as well as how alcohol affects your ability to drive. It is significant that in the majority of fatal crashes, the drivers were at or above what is considered the “legal limit” for driving. This means that in all 50 states, they could be arrested for driving under the influence.
As drivers, we are responsible for our actions behind the wheel. This includes what we do before we drive — such as consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Our firm believes that everyone should educate themselves about the dangers of drinking and driving, as we have seen the aftermath of drunk driving far too often.
If you have been in an accident caused by a drunk driver, a Washington, D.C. car accident attorney can help. By thoroughly investigating the case and advocating for you through each step of the process, your lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome while allowing you to focus on your recovery.
BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in an individual’s bloodstream. It is expressed as a percentage. A BAC of .10% means that a person’s blood supply contains one part of alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood.
The liver metabolizes approximately one standard drink per hour. As a result, 1 to 2 drinks will increase BAC by a small amount, .01 to .05%, while 2 to 3 drinks will raise BAC by .006 and .1%. The impact of alcohol on a person’s BAC will depend on a number of factors, such as gender, age, and whether the person is taking drugs or prescription medications.
BAC is tested through breath, blood or urine tests. A breath test relies on a sample of breath from deep within a person’s lungs. A formula is then used to determine the amount of undigested alcohol in the bloodstream based on the amount of alcohol exhaled in the breath.
A breath test can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after a person drank. In contrast, a blood test is accurate up to 12 hours after the last drink was consumed. It is considered more accurate in determining whether a person was drinking at the specific time that their blood was drawn.
Finally, a urine test can be used to determine BAC. This test is usually offered only if a person is unable to take a breath or blood test. It can detect metabolized urine between 12 and 24 hours after a person drinks.
A person’s BAC may continue to rise, even after they have stopped drinking. A human body eliminates alcohol at a rate of approximately .015% per hour. If an individual has had multiple drinks in a short time frame, their BAC could rise significantly even after they are no longer drinking — and it could take an extended period of time for their BAC to drop.
In Washington, D.C., the legal limit is .08%. If you drive with a BAC at or above this level, then you may be charged with the crime of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). However, if you are under the age of 21, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system.
Importantly, your BAC does not necessarily have to exceed the legal limit in order to be charged with a crime. Under DC Code, a motorist can be arrested and convicted for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if they have a BAC reading and show other signs of impairment. This is typically based on a police officer’s observations and/or a field sobriety test.
How an Elevated BAC Can Impact Your Ability to Drive
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 40% of all fatal car accidents each year involve the use of alcohol or other drugs. Any amount of alcohol in your system can impact key driving skills, including your judgment, vision, reaction time, and ability to distinguish between colors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied how drinking affects an individual’s ability to drive. As BAC rises, your capabilities as a driver will decrease — and the likelihood of an accident increase.
- At .02% BAC, you will likely feel relaxed, with some loss of judgment and an altered mood. Your ability to track moving targets and to multitask will have decreased. For many people, a BAC of .02 percent will occur after just one alcoholic beverage.
- At .05% BAC, you will have exaggerated behavior, along with impaired judgment, lowered alertness and inhibition. You may have difficulty focusing your eyes. If you attempt to drive, you may have a hard time steering and responding to emergency situations due to reduced coordination and the ability to track moving objects.
- At .08% BAC, you will have poor muscle coordination, your memory will be impaired, and a lack of self-control and reasoning abilities. You may find it harder to detect danger and have short-term memory loss. If you decide to drive, you will find it hard to concentrate, control your speed, and process information.
- At .10% BAC, you will be visibly intoxicated, with a clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination and slowed thinking. If you drive, you will have a reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.
- At .15% BAC, you will have far less muscle control than normal and may vomit. You will likely suffer a major loss of balance. If you drive, you will have substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in processing necessary visual and auditory information.
With nearly any amount of alcohol in your system, you will likely experience some loss of driving ability. The more that you drink, the less competent you will be as a driver. That is why it is so important that you plan to for a driver, get a taxi, Lyft or Uber, or stay over if you are intoxicated.
Hurt by a Drunk Driver? We Can Help.
Despite strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, impaired driving continues to be a major problem in Washington, D.C. and across the country. If you or a loved one have hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver, we are here for you. Our team of highly skilled Washington, D.C. car accident attorneys will fight to get you the compensation that you deserve.
At Patrick Malone and Associates, we believe that victims of motor vehicle collisions and other types of traumatic events deserve justice. We use our skills, knowledge, and experience with the civil legal system to help them achieve it. Contact us online or call us at 202-742-1500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.