What Do Drunk Driving and Thanksgiving Have in Common?

What Do Drunk Driving and Thanksgiving Have in Common?

Thanksgiving - Blog Photo 1 - 11.26.14The holidays are a time of highs and lows. Usually this means more stress than usual, and at least a couple of opportunities to over-do it with the holiday punch. Between the alcohol, the places to go and people to see, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years (and the 4th of July and Labor Day) are some of the most dangerous days on the road.

First, according to NHTSA, motor vehicle fatalities during these 6 holidays are more frequent and more likely to involve alcohol. This particular data set does not include information regarding non-fatal accidents and alcohol, but its probably safe to assume that if the incidence of alcohol-related fatal accidents is higher, we’d expect to see a correlating increase in alcohol related non-fatal accidents. There’s reason to be critical of this data (for example, NHTSA estimates alcohol involvement when blood alcohol test results are unknown), but the idea it stands for is beyond criticism: holidays can be a dangerous time on the road.

Second, law enforcement agencies have a tendency to increase drunk driving patrols during holidays (and nights and weekends). Your friendly neighborhood Target Zero teams are no different. More drunk driving patrols mean more drunk driving stops and more DUI charges.

3 Tips to Avoid a DUI Charge

1. Don’t Drink and Drive

Duh. It may surprise you, but I am an advocate for abstaining from alcohol entirely if you plan on driving. As long as you are under the legal limit and not impaired, drinking and driving is not illegal. I am not saying it should be illegal.  DUI laws in Washington are already some of the harshest in the country.

Rather, the reason why I recommend avoiding alcohol entirely is that, as a DUI and criminal defense attorney, I am skeptical and critical of the law enforcement process. I am not convinced that the battery of roadside tests and observations actually help law enforcement distinguish an unimpaired person from an impaired one. And, once a officer believes you are impaired, the investigative tools at his or her disposal make it extremely difficult to rebut his investigation weeks or months later in the court room.

So, my recommendation is never drink and drive. And if you plan to drink, make your transportation plan before you start. Designate a driver. Take your bicycle. Ride the bus. Take a taxi, Lyft or Uber.

Did you know that Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force is partnering with Uber to bring you reduced cab fare this holiday season? That’s rad! Take advantage of it!

2. If you are going to drink, do it in moderation.

Being responsible is the key to success. First, consume in moderation. Generally, a person will eliminate one average drink or .5 oz (15 ml) of alcohol per hour. Caution: this rate varies greatly depending on the person’s weight, gender, health, etc. And, don’t count microbrews and martinis as one drink each; these drinks are bigger or stronger and take longer to process.

Second, make sure you eat. Eating food slows the absorption of alcohol in the stomach and prevents blood-alcohol spikes.

Third, if you are really concerned, there are consumer breathalyzers available that can help you approximate your BAC. This has long been a concern of DUI attorneys: being over a certain blood alcohol content is illegal. But, unlike a theft charge, where usually a person should know when they are committing the crime, a person doesn’t know exactly what his or her blood alcohol content  is.

However, make sure you use these consumer breathalyzers with caution. They may be calibrated differently than the state’s breathalyzers, be inaccurate, break easily, etc.

3. Don’t assume you will get away with drunk driving.

Even if your driving is showing signs of impairment, it is simply too easy to get pulled over for something stupid. Forgetting to signal a lane change, traveling in the left lane of a more-than-two lane road, swinging to the outside lane when making a left turn, having a break light out, etc. all routinely allow officers to stop a driver, smell intoxicants and see bloodshot eyes, and expand the scope of the traffic citation stop to a full blown DUI investigation.

Happy holidays, and drive safe!

Flickr | Hey Paul| Photo


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