What is Drunk Driving?
The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTA) has found that every 50 minutes there is a death caused by drunk driving totaling more than 10,500 lives per year. The fatality rate is the worst during the winter holiday season. According to NHTA, drunk driving car crashes account for a third of all traffic related fatalities.
Alcohol impairs brain function; thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination – all of which are essential to safely operating a vehicle. As Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) rises, so do the impacts on one’s central nervous system. BAC is measured by the weight of alcohol in a particular volume of blood – grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. BAC is measured with a breathalyzer which determines the amount of alcohol in one’s system using their breath.
NHTA describes the compounding impacts of BAC (in g/dL) on driving as follows:
- .02: decline in ability to visually track moving targets and perform more than one task at a time
- .05: reduced coordination, increased decline in ability to track moving objects, reduced response time to emergency driving situations
- .08: reduced concentration, short-term memory loss, lack of speed control, reduction of information processing capability such as signal detection, impaired perception
- .10: reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
- .15: significant impairment in vehicle control, attention, and visual and auditory information processing.
At a BAC of 0.08 g/dL, the risk of a car crash rises exponentially. It is illegal in the entirety of the United States to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. It is important to remember that lower levels of BAC still impair driving and in 2018 1,878 fatalities were caused by drivers who had BAC levels between .01-.07 g/dL.
Promisingly, NHTA has recorded that drunk driving automobile accidents have reduced by one-third in the past 30 years.
Drunk Driving in New Hampshire
Impaired driving is an all too common issue and in their 2021 Highway Safety Plan, New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety (NH OHS) reports that 32.2% of all 2019 fatal crashes were alcohol related. In 2019 there were 4,945 impaired driving arrests resulting in 20 victim fatalities. The impaired drivers who caused these fatalities had BACs between 0.040 and 0.309 and 77.4% of the impaired operators involved in these fatal accidents died themselves.
The number of arrests and fatalities are on the decline and in 2019 NH had a 28.88% decrease in alcohol/drug impaired traffic fatalities which NH OHS attributes to education, enforcement and media efforts.
What New Hampshire Laws Prevent Drunk Driving?
New Hampshire has strict penalties for those driving while intoxicated under NH RSA 265-A.
First time offenders convicted of Driving While Intoxicated:
- Be guilty of a class B misdemeanor, class A misdemeanor, or class B felony.
- Have their license revoked for 90 days to 2 years.
- Pay a fine of $500-$1,000 or more.
- Submit to drug tests.
- Be required to be evaluated and follow a service plan determined by NH Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) subject to the sentencing court’s decision.
- Be required to complete a department of health and human services impaired driver education program.
- Be required to install an ignition interlock device (a breathalyzer connected to one’s car that prevents the car from starting if their BAC is above the level determined by the sentencing court) subject to the sentencing court’s decision.
- Be sentenced between 0-35 consecutive days in the county correctional facility, some of which shall be suspended if the offender schedules an evaluation with IDCMP and follows their service plan.
Repeat offenders are subject to all of the above, longer sentencing to county correctional facilities, and longer or indefinite license revocations.
Ways to Address Drunk Driving
It is vital to have a plan whether you are driving, riding or hosting:
- Before drinking, plan a safe and sober ride home (schedule a taxi, or plan with a sober designated driver).
- Don’t let someone that has been drinking get behind the wheel (consider collecting keys if you are hosting a party).
- If you are hosting a party, have a plan so that every guest will have a sober ride home or not have to travel that evening.
- Always wear your seatbelt – this is your best defense against other drivers that are out of your control.
- Call 911 if you see a drunk driver.
I was in a car accident caused by drunk driving – what should I do?
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident caused by drunk driving, contact Donahue Law. Auto crashes cause personal injury and property damage that can be emotionally, physically, and financially devastating. Car crash lawyers and personal injury attorneys such as Attorney Charlie Donahue can help you navigate the difficult conversations and paperwork with insurance companies so that you receive the best possible outcome.
If you need assistance after a car crash, please call Attorney Charlie Donahue of Donahue Law at (603) 357- 2363 or send him a message here for a free consultation.