Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) details how an estimated 30% of all car accidents are attributable to drunk driving. Over 10,000 individuals die in drunk driving crashes yearly in the United States. There were at least 170 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2019 here in Mississippi. Countless others likely suffered varying degrees of injuries in other alcohol-involved crashes.
Drunk driving accidents are often described as preventable crashes. They wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for a motorist negligently getting behind the wheel of a car, putting others’ lives at risk. When sharing the road with others, there are a few telltale signs that a drunk driver is near that you can be on the lookout for to potentially avoid becoming entangled in a crash.
Signs a Driver Is Drunk
According to the national nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a few signs indicate that a motorist you’re sharing the road with may be intoxicated from alcohol. These include:
- Weaving within their lane or having difficulty staying in it
- Failing to stop at traffic lights or signs as required
- Tailgating other motorists
- Erratic speed, including slowing down and stopping without justification
- Close call accidents where a driver barely misses other vehicles or inanimate objects in its path
- A vehicle leaving the roadway and traveling onto a shoulder or sidewalk
- Straddling or hugging a roadway’s center line
This is far from an exhaustive list of signs of drunk drivers.
A good rule of thumb is to pull over and wait for a vehicle to pass if you suspect a motorist may be drunk, distracted, drowsy, or otherwise engaging in unsafe driving behaviors. You may also want to get a vehicle’s license plate information and location and call it into Jackson police so they can determine whether to initiate a stop.
How Drinking and Driving Affects a Motorist’s Driving Skills
Many motorists make the mistake of getting behind the wheel of a car because they don’t feel buzzed, never factoring in how the alcohol they just consumed takes approximately 30 minutes to process through the average adult’s body and start making them feel intoxicated.
While consuming an alcoholic drink immediately before getting in a car is never safe as it could leave a driver with diminished decision-making skills, binge drinkers are the biggest threat of all. The processing of a significant amount of alcohol quickly before getting behind the wheel is likely to result in a particularly dangerous motorist riding alongside you on the road.
Alcohol consumption impacts motorists’:
- Fine motor skills: Our eyes see something and send messages to our brains warning them of impending danger. Our brain sends messages throughout our bodies, letting them know to perform certain activities to avoid potentially adverse circumstances. Hand-eye coordination, for example, is one of many fine motor skills that may be impacted when a person is intoxicated.
- Visual acuity: It’s not uncommon for intoxicated motorists to experience blurry vision, impacting their ability to see people, cars, and other hazards that enter their path. Poor vision may also cause drivers not to adequately assess distance or recognize traffic signs and signals.
- Judgment and decision-making: Alcohol-impaired driving can affect a person’s ability to render sound decisions, such as whether it’s safe to proceed through an intersection at a four-way stop. Driving involves a series of constant decision-making, so not having a strong ability to assess risks can put an intoxicated motorist at significant risk of causing a car crash.
Many of the same dangerous driving behaviors that drunk motorists display are ones that a drowsy one, for example, may also show. It can’t be emphasized enough. If you see a motorist driving erratically, pull over and report what you noticed to the police. It’s not worth risking life and limb just to keep driving along.
Which Motorists Are Most Apt To Be Stopped on Suspicion of Drunk Driving?
NHTSA data shows that the highest concentration of intoxicated motorists are adults aged 21 to 34. Male motorists are four times more likely to drive drunk than female drivers.
Statistics from the same year also revealed that at least 25% of all fatal crashes that claim teens’ lives are alcohol-involved. Those same statistics show that 29% of adolescents aged 15-20 who died in car crashes in 2020 had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01%.
What To Know About Mississippi’s Legal Limits
Motorists under the legal drinking age of 21 in Mississippi are considered legally drunk when their BAC is 0.02% or higher.
The legal limit for adults aged 21 and over is 0.08%. A Mississippi motorist is considered to be legally drunk at that point.
There’s a separate legal limit for commercial carriers in Mississippi, which is 0.04%.
When Are Motorists Most Likely To Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol?
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety statistics shows that 31% of drunk driving accidents occur on weekends.
Holidays are another time drunk drivers are likely to be out on the road. Some of the highest accident rates, many of which are bound to be alcohol-involved, include (in rank order):
- Christmas Eve through to the day following New Year’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Labor Day
- Independence Day (the 4th of July)
Other times you should be on the lookout for intoxicated motorists here in Jackson are evenings and late nights. This is when motorists might be returning from cocktail parties, dinners, parties, sporting events, or nightclubs.
What Types of Accidents Do Drunk Motorists Cause?
Alcohol intoxication can cause drivers to be less attentive than they’d otherwise be, slow their reaction times, and even cause them to doze off while operating their vehicle. The following types of crashes may happen if any of these scenarios occur:
- Wrong-Way Accidents: Part of intoxicated motorists’ impaired decision-making and visual acuity issues is that they might turn onto a ramp assuming it’s the onward one when it’s really the off one. This may lead them to collide head-on with a vehicle on the ramp or ride down the highway in the wrong direction.
- Head-On Collisions: Drunk drivers who cross the center line or median risk colliding head-on into other motorists and their cars. The speed and point of impact at which a car crash like this occurs will largely dictate how serious property damage and, more importantly, how badly injured vehicle occupants are.
- Rollover Accidents: These collisions often stem from an intoxicated motorist’s tapping of another driver’s bumper. This can easily cause the struck motorist’s vehicle to lose control of their car, leading it to flip over and come to rest in active traffic or a densely wooded area along the road.
- Rear-End Collisions: These crashes often stem from a tailgating situation, where a drunk driver isn’t properly assessing the distance between them and other motorists ahead of them. Both the speed and force with which these crashes occur can dictate the severity of the damage and injuries the accident causes.
- T-Bone Accidents: Collisions like these often happen because a motorist proceeds through an intersection on the assumption it’s clear or they have the right of way when that’s not the case.
Many of these crashes happen because a driver runs a stop sign or fails to obey traffic signals. A vehicle occupant’s placement in the vehicle relative to the impact of the crash is likely to dictate the severity of the injuries they suffer in the accident.
Many drunk driving accidents here in Mississippi leave motorists with cars in disrepair and with significant injuries. If you’re seriously hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the responsible driver in addition to any criminal charges that may already be in place. Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC will ensure you preserve your rights. Contact us now to discuss your legal matter, so we can start building your case.