What is drunk driving and why are drunk driving laws so rigorously enforced?

Drunk driving, sometimes called driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), can stem from two different scenarios under drunk driving laws: the first is when a driver has high blood-alcohol levels, and the second is when a driver is physically impaired by the use of a substance.

Blood Alcohol Levels

Driving with a blood alcohol level that is over the state’s maximum permissible blood alcohol limit is considered drunk driving. The limit for adults is 0.08% in all 50 states as of May, 2007. This is due to the fact that in October, 2000, Congress passed a law requiring all states to adopt limits of 0.08% by 2004 or lose some of their federal highway funds. Apart from the 0.08% limit, some states have zero tolerance limits for young drivers. Most European countries have limits that are far below 0.08%. You may be considered legally drunk even though you do not feel or look as though you are under the influence of alcohol.

Drunk Driving When Physically Impaired

You may also be guilty of DUI / DWI for driving when your physical abilities are impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. In the eyes of the law, it makes no difference whether the drug is legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter. If taking that drug impacts your senses of seeing, hearing, talking, walking, judging distances, or any other physical or mental ability used in driving, you may be found guilty of a drunk driving offense.

Why Drunk Driving Laws Are So Rigorously Enforced

In 1997, according to the United States Department of Transportation, 38.6% of all traffic deaths were alcohol-related, with a total of 16,189 alcohol-related traffic deaths. Fifteen years earlier, in 1982, alcohol-related deaths represented 57.3% of that year's 43,945 total traffic fatalities. In addition, a study done by the National Highway Safety Administration reported that the risk of a driver with a 0.10% blood alcohol content (BAC) being in fatal accident is many times greater than a driver with a 0.08% BAC. Over the years, the excessive number of deaths and injuries from drunk driving-related accidents has called for more vigorous enforcement of preventative laws.

Despite the fact that drivers are legally drunk at 0.08%, the head of the Montana State Police, as one example, stated that the average driver arrested for a DUI in Montana has a 0.17% BAC. Thus, most of those arrested for a DUI or DWI are way over the line and a hazard to themselves and other drivers on the road.