A new law enacted by the Tennessee state legislature this year is making it easier to get drunk driv...
As a public service I am repeating a previous essay:
Monday, February 16, 2009
I don’t encourage anyone to drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license. Have a designated driver. Call a cab. Have a friend drive you. Having said all of that however, there may be times when you will have a sufficient amount of adult beverage that you could register drunk even though you don’t think you are drunk. I am offering this guide to help you improve your drunk driving skills.
Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you go out with your friends and spend an evening drinking and partying you very well may end up drunk. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and weather or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk.
This weekend, I had a dinner at my sister’s house where we celebrated the birthday of her two children. We had wine with dinner then had mango-peach flavored brandy with coffee for desert. This was not a wild party but we had a fun evening. I was not drunk. No one was drunk. But, I don’t know how many drinks I had and it is possible that I or someone else at the party had enough alcohol to fail a Blood Alcohol Concentration test. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a BAC that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”
Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” At the birthday party at my sister’s this weekend, I don’t think I had too much to drink, but I did not keep track of my intake. That is what often happens. If you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.
On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.
My wife and I like to go to the monthly “art crawl,” an event on the first Saturday of every month where several art gallery have openings. A shuttle takes you from gallery to gallery. Most of the galleries serve h’orderves and wine. Five 5-ounce glasses of wine in two hours is under the limit; six glasses in two hours is over the limit. On the normal art crawl event, my consumption would be well below the BAC limit but sometimes it may approach that limit.
A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.
Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.
Plan your trip. Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught.
Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.
Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container.
Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.
Concentrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.
Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast.
If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken.
Update: With the new "no refusal law" you cannot really refuse, but if there is any chance you may be over the BAC then refuse anyway and make the police get a search warrant. The longer you can delay, the greater chances are that your BAC will drop. Also the new law may be overruled if challenged and there may be technical deficiency in the search warrant.