What we need is the Scandinavian approach. A blood alcohol concetration of .02, or one residual drink in your system, is illegal.
In Norway, a BAC of 0.02-0.05 results in a major fine; over 0.05 and there is a mandatory 21 days imprisonment, loss of license and a huge fine.
Alcohol and gasoline are a lethal combination that kills and cripples thousands of Americans every year with devastating personal injuries. In 2006 more than 15,000 Americans died in crashes caused by drunken drivers that year, and that more than 1,500 of those fatalities occurred in California. That’s an average of more than 4 Californians who die every day because someone chooses to drive after drinking.
Where’s the outrage?
Accident is the word commonly used to describe the carnage caused by drunken drivers, but these deaths and personal injuries are never accidents. They are the predictable consequences when people drink and drive. And the real tragedy is that we as a society tolerate it. The only way to stop it is to change our belief that it is OK to have 5 drinks in an hour and get behind the wheel. That’s the law today in California.
Drunken driving crashes occur frequently, but they only draw significant media attention when a public figure is involved.
That’s what happened in April when Nick Adenhart, 22, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, was killed by a drunken driver a few hours after a game that he had pitched. The drunken driver who killed him was Andrew Gallo, also 22, and a habitual drunken driver.
Because he was an athlete, Nick Adenhart was more visible than other victims of drunken drivers, but his life had no more value than the anonymous victims of this violent crime. And, if Andrew Gallo hadn’t slammed his vehicle into the car carrying Adenhart, the young woman behind the wheel of the Adenhart car might have killed the pitcher anyway. Her Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was 0.16, twice the legal limit, and she was underage. A mile down the road, she might have wrapped the car around a tree or slammed into an innocent victim.
A BAC of 0.16 indicates this driver had consumed on the order of 11 beers, glasses of wine or shots of alcohol in the previous three hours. Each drink contributes 0.02 to BAC. The liver can process one drink an hour and reduce BAC by 0.02 each hour. Consuming two drinks over one hour normally results in a BAC of 0.02. To have a BAC of 0.16 is the equivalent of 8 residual drinks; add to that the alcohol processed by the liver and it is clear that whoever provided that much alcohol to a juvenile deserved to be held accountable for whatever damage she caused.
These human disasters are proof that our attitudes about drinking and driving are just wrong. The legal limit for driving after drinking is California (0.08 BAC) is dangerously high, and the punishments have been so minimal that a driver can have numerous arrests for drunken driving and never lose his license.
California has been trying to toughen the deterrents and penalties for drunk driving, and one law passed in 2008 and called the Steve Ambriz Act, requires everyone who applies for a driver’s license to sign an acknowledgement that if the person drives while intoxicated and kills someone, he or she will face murder charges.
That law is the voice of the liquor lobby and the prohibition is meaningless. Lobbyists for bars, bartenders, restaurants, alcohol producers and distributors have created a government policy that authorizes a person with a BAC of 0.08, i.e. 5 drinks in an hour, to drive and it obviously supports drinking and driving. That’s bona fide idiocy.
When a drunk driver causes mayhem you need an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the legal process and to be certain that the courts treat you, and not a drunk, as the victim.
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