The acronyms DWI and DUI stand for driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence. These terms describe the crime of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A driver’s intoxication level is determined by his or her blood alcohol content (BAC), which is a measure of the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. It is normally measured as mass per volume. Someone with a BAC of 0.02% has 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of blood. Each county and state in the United States has its own legal blood alcohol limit for driving. The legal percentages range from as low as 0.02% to as high as 0.08%. Everywhere in the United States it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Consuming drugs or alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths; the greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident. In 2006, approximately 17, 600 people died in traffic crashes involving alcohol. In that same year, over 1.46 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Some legal consequences of driving under the influence include:
- Revoking the driver’s license (most effective way of reducing drunk driving).
- Jail sentences.
- Confiscating license plates.
- Impounding or immobilizing vehicles.
Repeat offenders sometimes have an interlock device installed in their vehicle that measures the driver’s BAC and prevents him or her from starting the automobile if intoxicated.
Drunk drivers can be divided into three categories:
- “”Normal”" drivers – typically drink socially and often underestimate the effects of alcohol on their driving performance and motor skills. Even though these drivers tend to have lower BAC levels, their risk of being in an accident is significantly increased.
- “”High-risk”" drivers – frequent drinkers who may abuse alcohol when taking part in potentially hazardous activities or enabling risky behaviors.
- Alcoholics – view alcohol as an integral part of life. For alcoholics, abstaining from alcohol use means a major lifestyle change.