Should Drunk Drivers be Imprisoned on the First Offense?

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Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities in 2017, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Drunk drivers should be imprisoned on the first offense, based on the severity and circumstances. According to Nave Law Firm, New York has one of the lowest arrest rates in proportion to its population (0.19%) but proves the trend that alcohol is responsible for 1/3 of all car crashes. Stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1.5 million people were arrested in a given year for driving under the influence of alcohol. This means that one out of every 121 licensed drivers were arrested for drunk driving. (Drunk Driving Arrest Statistics 1) It is clear that based on statistics and state laws, driving while intoxicated is a serious issue that is continuing to grow.

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“Should Drunk Drivers be Imprisoned on the First Offense?”

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In New York and every other state, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level limit is 0.08%. This means that someone with a BAC of 0.08% or more is legally considered drunk, or intoxicated. There are several different alcohol violations in New York State. The first type of violation is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), which is a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. There is also Aggravated DWI which is a BAC of .18 or higher. The next violation is Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol DWAI/Alcohol, which would classify as a BAC of more than .05 but less than .07. Your DWI penalties depend on factors such as your age, the substance impairing you, your driver’s license, and whether you submitted to a chemical test (DUI and DWI in New York 2).

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, if you are younger than 21 years old and you’re caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher, you’ve broken New York’s Zero Tolerance Law. If it is your first offense, you can receive a suspended license for six months, $125 civil penalty, $100 fee for suspension termination, possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs, and possible ignition interlock device installation and all associated costs. If it is your second offense, it is license revocation for 1 year or until you turn 21 years old, $125 civil penalty, $100 fee for suspension termination, possible enrollment in the DDP along with costs, and possible ignition interlock device installation.

If you are over the age of 21 and are charged with DWAI/Alcohol as a first offense, it is license suspension for 90 days, a $300 to $500 fine, a minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years, up to 15 days in jail, and possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program. If you get a second DWAI/Alcohol charge in 5 years, you face license revocation for at least six months, a $500 to $750 fine, a minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 fines over 3 years, up to 30 days in jail, and possible enrollment in DDP.

A charge of DWI as your first offense gives you a license revocation for six months, a $500 to $1,000 fine, a minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years, up to one year in jail, and possible enrollment in DDP. The penalties you face if you commit another DWI offense within 10 years of your first offense are license revocation for at least one year, a $1,000- $5,000 fine, a minimum $250 annual assessment fine for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years, up to 4 years in jail with a minimum of 5 days in jail or 30 days of community service, a class E felony, and possible enrollment in DDP (DUI and DWI in New York 4).

In 2017, 10,874 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver, 29 percent of all fatalities (Alcohol Impaired Driving 1). As a nation, we spend $5.4 billion a week on alcohol, that’s an average $36.56 per person, every week, or almost $2,000 a year on alcohol (Drunk Driving Stats 1). Drivers with prior DWI convictions are also overrepresented in fatal crashes and have a greater relative risk of fatal crash involvement. One study showed that about 3 percent of all licensed drivers had a prior arrest for DWI within the past three years, yet 12 percent of intoxicated drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior DWI conviction in the past three years.

That same study showed that intoxicated drivers with prior DWI convictions had 4.1 times the risk of being in a fatal crash as intoxicated drivers without prior DWIs. Another study showed that fatal crash risk increases with the number of prior DWI arrests (Repeat DWI Offenders in U.S. 1). Although drinking alcohol depends on factors such as weight, sex, and a person’s metabolism, there is a general rule of thumb for the amount of alcohol consumed and BAC. According to Steven F. Groce, attorney at law, 2 standard drinks consumed during the first hour of drinking, will increase a person’s level of blood alcohol concentration to approximately .05%. Most people won’t realize how quickly their alcohol concentration will rise, even after one drink.

If punishments were even tougher for drivers on the first offense, they wouldn’t be as likely to continue to do it. Most people feel that they shouldn’t receive a harsh punishment if it is their first offense, which ultimately leads them to do it again. Just because you are arrested doesn’t mean you will be convicted. Receiving a fine or a license suspension does not send a message to people not to drink and drive.
Drunk driving is a selfish act that not only puts the impaired driver at risk, but effects the lives of other innocent drivers. You often see stories in the news on fatal car accidents caused by drunk drivers where the lives of an innocent human being was taken due to a poor decision to drink and drive by someone else.

One headline on ABC 7 News on October 3, 2018 was Calverton, Long Island (WABC)”The family of the Boy Scout killed by an alleged drunk driver on Long Island says the world has lost an amazing 12- year- old boy (Thorne 1). This was a drunk driver who chose to drive a car and hit a group of boy scouts walking on a sidewalk. Fox 8 News had a headline on October 22, 2018, Family mourns 4 people killed in suspected drunk driving crash (Dipiazza 1). This is another incidence where a man chose to drink and drive, run a stop sign, and crash into another car killing all four people.

I have a personal experience on what drunk driving can do to people. Meghan Wood of 20 Christine Court had pled guilty to a seven-count indictment in connection with the death of Lisa Moray. Wood was driving on June 18, 2008 at 4:30 a.m. when her SUV ran off an entrance from leading from the Sprain Brook Parkway to the Cross-County Expressway, ran up an embankment and rolled over coming to rest on its wheels. Moray was pronounced dead at the scene. Wood’s blood alcohol level was .18 percent, more than double the legal limit (Driver in Vehicular Homicide Sentenced to Prison 1). Lisa Moray, my aunt, was in the car when her friend made the decision to drink and drive. A poor decision to drink and drive a car can be controlled, but the life of an innocent person can’t be brought back.

Drunk driving is a nationwide issue that is continuing to grow. With harsher laws and punishments, the number of fatalities and alcohol related incidents can be greatly reduced. With taxis, Uber, Lyft and any other type of public transportation, there is no reason to drink and drive. For every arrest made for driving while intoxicated (DWI), an estimated 500 to 2,000 drunk driving incidents go unpenalized, although more arrests are made for drunk driving in America than for any other offense and significant sums are spent on enforcement. Even doubling or quadrupling the number of arrests would leave the chance of arrest extremely small.

With the possibility of getting caught so slim, it may seem that people would shrug off an effort by police to make more arrests (Preventing Drunk Driving 1). One way to be able to catch more drunk drivers on the road is increase sobriety checks. Law enforcement officials did a study to assess how two types of drinking- driving laws permitting sobriety checkpoints and prohibiting open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles are associated with drinking- driving and how enforcement efforts may affect these associations. They found that states with a sobriety checkpoint law, compared to those without a law, had 18.2% lower drinking- driving and states that conducted sobriety checks monthly had 40.6% lower drinking- driving (Traffic Injury Prevention 1).

Even as a first offense, treatment or at least a few days in jail depending on a person’s BAC should be given to prove how serious of a matter it is. Some of the time, most people will get away with drinking and driving if they didn’t have too much. This leads them to continue to do it because they feel if they were able to do it the other times, they can do it again. According to Christine G. Holzmueller, Drunk Driving, the effects brought on by alcohol start to appear with a BAC of 0.02%. These effects include a loss of judgement and a decline in the driver’s ability to quickly track moving objects or perform two tasks at a time.

Once a person’s BAC reaches 0.05, the risk of a fatal crash substantially increases. People don’t realize one drink can have an effect on their ability to drive a car. Drinking and driving not only poses a threat to your life, it can affect many other things as well. You could lose your job, it can raise your insurance, your incident can be made public for others to know, and you will have to live with guilt for the rest of your life if you injure or kill someone.

Athens High School seniors experienced first-hand the effects and consequences of drunk and distracted driving during a daylong drunk driving awareness event Wednesday, just a few days before many of them will go to prom (Pavlik- Hernandez 1). This was an event in Athens, Alabama where a number of law enforcement and medical services went to a high school to show students what goes on during a drunk driving accident. Actions like these help get the message across to young kids, and show them in depth what would happen in a situation like that.

Ultimately, everyone knows drinking and driving is against the law. If you are willing to risk your life, and someone else’s, you should have to face a harsh consequence for it, even if that is imprisonment. It is an ongoing problem that will continue unless the penalties become harsher. You can save your life, the lives of others, and the grief a family will go through in losing a loved one from a poor decision, just like my family has to.

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Should Drunk Drivers be Imprisoned on the First Offense?. (2019, Apr 04). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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