You're headed to the mountains, the lake, the beach, the river – where ever it is you go for weekend recreation to unwind from the pressures of the work week – and you drive carefully. You check your tire pressure. You make sure all your lights and signals work properly. All of your car’s safety equipment – brakes, windshield wipers, everything – is in proper working condition.
And then, without warning, a drunk driver plows into your car, just when you least expect it. The relaxing weekend you were hoping for is out the window. Maybe you or someone in your family was injured in the accident. Now what?What Constitutes Drunk Driving?
The federal government defines alcohol-impaired crashes as those involving one or more automobile or motorcycle driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has reported that there were 10,497 fatalities in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2016. This marks a 1.7 percent from the 10,320 deaths from alcohol-impaired accidents in 2015. The fatalities from alcohol-impaired crashes were responsible for 28 percent of all crash fatalities in 2016.
Alcohol-impaired driving is uniformly defined throughout all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbiaimpaired driving as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more. Further, all states and the District have zero tolerance laws that prohibit underage drivers – those under the age of 21 -- from drinking and driving. Most states set the BAC level for triggering these laws at 0.02 percent – not quite literally zero tolerance, but essentially consuming a single beer will trigger such laws.
Drunk-driving enforcement demonstrates the extent of the problem. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2016, an arrest rate equal to roughly one arrest per 215 licensed drivers in the United States.
States, municipalities, and the federal government all run advertising campaign touting awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. These campaigns against alcohol-impaired driving frequently target underage drivers, those under the legal drinking age of 21. They also tend to target repeat offenders and drivers between 21 and 34 years old, as that is the age demographic responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other age group. Unfortunately, the NHTSA reports that young drivers are the least receptive to arguments against drunk driving.The Cost of Impaired Driving is High
While fatalities caused by drunk driving have declined by about one-third in the last 30 years, drunk-driving accidents still are responsible for more than 10,000 traffic fatalities every year. On average, 29 people die every day in the United States in traffic accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. That’s a death every 50 minutes. In addition to the human cost, these alcohol-related accidents inflict more than $44 billion in property loss, medical costs, and other damages. Moreover, drunk drivers are a leading cause of traffic accidents that result in the death of a child 14 years old or under. Of the 1,233 traffic fatalities of children 14 and under in 2016, 17 percent – 214 deaths – were the result of an accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
Alcohol isn't the only problem. Legal and illegal drugs, from prescription painkillers to marijuana, are a factor in about 16 percent of traffic accidents. Marijuana, in particular, is increasing as a factor in traffic accidents, with the drug being involved in 13 percent of weekend traffic accidents at night in 2016. Drivers who used marijuana were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who were not using marijuana.What Should You do if You are Involved in an Accident with a Driver You Believe to be Alcohol-Impaired?
If your weekend getaway turns sour and you are involved in an accident with an alcohol- or drug-impaired driver, there are steps you should take to protect your rights, especially if you or any of your passengers are injured in that accident. While drunk driving is illegal, a criminal conviction of the impaired driver will not necessarily lead to you recovering any damages and injuries you or your passengers suffered in the accident. It is possible the court will order restitution, but it is not guaranteed. A conviction of the other driver for impaired driving likewise might help you prove liability in a civil case, but that conviction will not necessarily directly lead to compensation for your damages or injuries.
To ensure proper compensation, you almost certainly will have to pursue a civil action against the impaired driver, completely independent of the criminal case. That civil claim against the intoxicated driver will seek financial compensation for your injuries and damages. To support that civil case there are steps you can take in the immediate aftermath of the accident. These include:
- If anyone in the accident is injured, call for emergency medical assistance
- Call the police to report the accident
- Do not speak with the other driver if you believe him or her to be alcohol-impaired. If it is possible, stay in your car, lock the doors and wait for the police
- Record the other driver’s license plate number as soon as you can. Write it down or take a picture of the license plate. Drunk drivers have been known to leave the scene of the accident in an attempt to avoid prosecution
- When the police get to the accident scene, ask them to perform a sobriety test on the other driver.
- If you can, take pictures of the accident scene
- As soon as you are able, record everything you remember about the accident, either in written or electronic form. Include the time, location of the accident, and all other details you can remember. Include the names of any passengers, and if you can get names of any witnesses, include those.
- Get a copy of the police report.
Taking these steps will help later if you need to take legal action to recover for any damages or injuries you suffer in an accident with a drunk driver.Contact an Atlanta Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Without Delay
If you have been involved in an accident involving a driver who is alcohol-impaired, you may be able to recover for any property damage or injuries you suffer. You should consult with an attorney under such circumstances. The attorneys of Slappey & Sadd can help. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. You also can reach us through our online contact form.