In 1897, George Smith gained the dubious honor of being the first man arrested for driving under the influence after colliding with a building in his London taxicab. Since then, intoxicated motorists have gained access to faster, larger, and far heavier vehicles capable of greater speeds. This is an issue that is not gender specific- it effects us all! To avoid becoming a victim of these irresponsible motorists and to protect their children and other passengers, other drivers must drive defensively.
Drunk Driving in the United States
In 2011, 9,878 motorists died in alcohol-related collisions, representing a drop of 2.5 percent from 2010. Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports indicate that DUI arrests may not necessarily be on the rise. In 2010, just over 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence while in 2011, just over 1.2 million were arrested for the same offense. However, preliminary statistics for 2012 indicate that most offenses except for murder and rape have increased, making an upswing in DUI arrests likely.
Arrest data varies between jurisdictions. In Minnesota, DUI arrests peaked in 2006 and alcohol-related fatalities peaked in 2007, while per annum rates have decreased since then. California’s data is more alarming; from 1997 to 2007, felony arrests for driving under the influence increased by 12.5 percent while all DUI arrests rose only 6.6 percent. Alcohol-related fatalities went from 1,100 in 1997 to 1,489 in 2007 while drug-related deaths tripled.
However, any attorney, whether it be a Tampa DUI lawyer or Virginia DWI firm, will agree that arrests for driving under the influence only tell part of the story. Before being apprehended, the average drunk driver has driven while intoxicated 80 times. Between 50 and 75 percent of all drivers with licenses suspended due to driving under the influence drive anyway, continuing to endanger the public with their poor life choices. Fewer arrests do not necessarily mean that fewer motorists are staying away from the bottle.
The Importance of Defensive Driving
Defensive driving habits protect motorists from problems before they occur. Identifying intoxicated motorists in advance of driving up to them allows one to give the other driver a wide berth while contacting the police. Defensive driving encompasses a wide variety of tactics, all of which are aimed at staying ahead of the game. Identifying problems means a mixture of vigilance and common sense.
Defensive drivers will scan the road as far ahead as possible to identify potential issues; not only could traffic be stopped, but if numerous motorists in a lane are swerving slightly at a specific point, there may be a pothole or object in the roadway. Keeping an eye on the driver of the vehicle in front allows motorists to predict that vehicle’s movement; drivers who look around repeatedly are probably looking for an address, which may mean that they could hit their brakes hard at any particular moment.
Defensive drivers will always leave an adequate distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front, never sit in another vehicle’s blind spot, and identify not only the distance but also the speed of other traffic before changing lanes. Even if a defensive driver fails to spot an intoxicated motorist, the defensive driver’s general habits should help prevent a collision from occurring in the first place.
Spotting Drunk Drivers
Drunk drivers are not always easy to identify. Drivers with low levels of intoxication may come across as unskilled or fatigued motorists. Ham-fisted inputs and slight weaving within a lane are potential indicators of an intoxicated or poorly skilled driver. Motorists should give such drivers a wide berth and always practice defensive tactics.
Highly intoxicated drivers are easier to identify. They will weave outside their lanes, ignore traffic control devices, and even strike vehicles and curbs. Driving with one’s headlights off at night, driving well below the speed limit in normal conditions, and remaining stopped at green lights and stop signs for extended periods are indicators of drunk driving. Anything that denotes a lack of responsiveness on the driver’s part should be noticed.
With a mixture of poor perception, crude inputs, slow responses, and diminished judgment, inebriated motorists present a variety of hazards to the motoring public. However, these hazards differ little from the hazards posed by heavily distracted or thoroughly incompetent drivers. With proper defensive driving techniques, motorists can minimize their chances of becoming a victim.
After attending defensive driving classes herself, author and concerned motorist Molly Pearce writes to inform readers of the differences that learning these techniques can make on the roads today. Exclusively defending individuals facing DUI cases in the Florida area for over five years, Tampa DUI lawyer David Katz has been working to educate about DUI as well. In his spare time he speaks to and educates fellow attorneys on DUI at conferences both national and local.