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Recent fatal accident illustrates the dangers of drinking and driving

The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported that a man who was driving under the influence of alcohol struck and killed a motorcyclist with his SUV. Although the driver allegedly left the scene of the crash, witnesses were able to help law enforcement discover his location. He was arrested on charges of felony DUI resulting in death, failure to yield, and duty to stop at the scene of a crash, according to officials. A car accident attorney in Las Vegas may be aware that this is only one of 104 such incidents in the state between January 1 and May 11 of 2015.

Drunk driving continues to be a serious problem in Nevada, in spite of increased law enforcement tactics and stricter penalties. The most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics indicate that alcohol-related crash fatalities have continued their upward trend in the state, with over 18 percent more fatalities in the first five months of 2015 than there were during the same period in 2014.

Measuring a single drink

A 12-ounce beer, a five-ounce glass of wine or a shot of 80 proof liquor is typically considered a standard alcoholic beverage, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Each of these contains 1.2 tablespoons of ethanol, and an individual’s blood alcohol content, or BAC, is conveyed as a percentage of this substance in the blood. Although these examples of standard drinks provide a guideline for the amount of alcohol consumed, they should not be used as absolutes, since they do not necessarily reflect serving sizes.

Factors involving absorption rates

A car accident attorney in Las Vegas knows that individuals do not always exhibit the same side effects when drinking alcohol. Factors affecting absorption rates include the following:

  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Amount of food in the system
  • Tolerance for alcohol
  • Body weight

Absorption rate is also influenced by gender. A woman who is the same size and weight as a man will experience more significant effects from the same amount of alcohol. One reason is the lower level of dehydrogenase present in the female body. This enzyme metabolizes alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. Women also have a lower body water content, so the alcohol is not diluted as quickly.

BAC effects

The legal limit for BAC is .08 percent, and drivers with this amount of alcohol in their blood are committing an impaired driver offense. Any driver exhibiting signs of impairment may be arrested for driving under the influence, even with a lower BAC percentage. One drink affects brain chemistry within about 10 minutes, and the specific chemicals altered are those responsible for relaying messages from one part of the brain to another. This changes a person’s impulse controls, balance, depth perception and focus.

Recent research published in the journal Injury Prevention revealed that a driver with a BAC of .01 percent is approximately 46 percent more apt to be at fault in a crash than a sober driver. At just .02 percent BAC, a person will not be able to track a rapidly moving target, and the ability to perform more than one task at a time is significantly reduced.

Researchers warn that there is not a sudden crossover point between sober and intoxicated. Instead, the level of impairment progresses at a smooth and strong rate as a person continues to drink alcohol. The level of BAC is usually eliminated from the body at an average rate of .015 to .017 percent per hour, although these numbers may vary considerably from person to person.

Unfortunately, drivers often use the legal limit to gauge whether or not they should get behind the wheel safely. According to a 2012 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 29.1 million drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Another survey conducted by the University of Florida tested the BAC of self-proclaimed designated drivers leaving bars. The results showed that more than 40 percent had had at least one drink.

Lowering impaired driving statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a list of strategies that have proven to be effective at reducing or preventing alcohol-impaired driving. These include sobriety checkpoints where law enforcement officials briefly stop vehicles and administer breath tests to those who they feel may be intoxicated. Ignition interlock laws have also provided a measure of success at preventing repeat offenders. A driver must breathe into a device, and if the BAC is above a preset level, the vehicle will not start. In many states, ignition interlocks are mandatory after the first offense. However, in Nevada, they are offered as an alternative to license suspension.

Many advocacy groups are urging lawmakers to reduce the level of legal intoxication from .08 percent to .05 percent, which is the legal limit in many European countries. “Zero Fatalities: Drive Safe Nevada” and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” are awareness programs with the goal of educating drivers on the dangers of driving after even one drink.

Until Nevada legislators put tougher laws in place, the number of alcohol-related injuries and fatalities will probably continue at their present alarming rate. When a driver under the influence of alcohol causes a motor vehicle crash, the results can be devastating to victims and family members. A car accident attorney in Las Vegas may be able to provide legal assistance in recovering the compensation to which they are entitled by law.

The George Bochanis Injury Law Offices was established in 1985. Before opening his office, Mr. Bochanis spent years representing major insurance companies in litigation cases and prior to that was a law clerk to a prominent local district court judge. Our offices have grown from a small one person setting to having its own well known office location on South Ninth Street in Downtown Las Vegas with 15 employees.

Years of Experience: More than 28 years
Nevada Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Nevada State Bar Federal Court of Nevada, 3rd Circuit

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