Drunk Driving and Holidays Do Not Mix
November 24, 2021
Holidays are a time to celebrate, whether it is Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, or another holiday. Alcohol is often a part of these holiday celebrations. However, there are many reasons why drunk driving and holidays do not mix. Tragically, more than 10,000 people die each year in drunk driving car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Despite this fact, numerous motorists still choose to drive while under the influence, and this problem is more prevalent during the holiday season.
Those who drink during holiday celebrations have a number of options for getting home safely without getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, sober drivers and passengers face a higher risk of being hit by a drunk driver during the holidays. If you have been injured in a collision that involved a drunk driver, reach out to a lawyer today.
What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Your Ability to Drive?
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher. However, alcohol affects a person’s ability to drive, even at lower concentrations. The effects of alcohol include the following:
- BAC 0.040 to 0.059 percent: Lowering of caution, minor impairment of judgement and memory.
- BAC 0.060 to 0.099 percent: Impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Impaired reasoning, memory, judgement, and reduced self-control.
- BAC 0.100 to 0.129 percent: Slurred speech, loss of peripheral vision. Impaired vision and hearing, and significant impairment of motor coordination.
- BAC 0.130 to 0.159 percent: Blurred vision, major loss of balance, motor impairment, lack of physical control, and dysphoria.
Individuals with a BAC of 0.160 may not be able to walk and feel or look visibly ill. They may lose consciousness and die if their BAC exceeds 0.25.
The only factor that can reduce the effects of alcohol on someone’s ability to drive is the passage of time. Drinking coffee or taking a shower does not help.
What Are the Penalties for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s driving under the influence (DUI) law has a three-tiered approach for penalties:
- General impairment (BAC 0.08 to 0.099 percent)
- High BAC (0.10 to 0.159 percent)
- Highest BAC (0.16 percent and greater)
Drunk driving on Pennsylvania roadways can result in stiff penalties for repeat offenders.
Drivers convicted of highest BAC DUI with more than two prior offenses may face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. They will also lose their driver’s license for 18 months.
First-time offenders convicted of general impairment must attend alcohol safety school, pay a fine of up to $300, and seek treatment if ordered. However, school bus drivers, commercial truckers, or drivers in an accident that causes injuries may be subject to High BAC penalties, even if their BAC was lower than 0.10 percent. Drivers with prior DUI convictions may be required to install driver alcohol detection systems on all vehicles they own or drive.
What Is a Driver Alcohol Detection System?
A driver alcohol detection system requires drivers to blow into a breathalyzer each time they attempt to start the car. Also known as an ignition interlock device, the system is designed to prevent drunk driving.
The car will not start if the alcohol content of the driver’s breath is higher than the safe driving limit. The device may also prompt the driver to periodically blow into the breathalyzer. If the device detects alcohol, it will give the driver time to pull over and park safely.
In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, alcohol detection systems have prevented drunk drivers from starting their vehicles many times. These devices have proven more effective at reducing drunk driving incidents than suspending an offender’s driver’s license.
Are Bars and Party Hosts Liable if Guests Drive Drunk?
Under the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, bars and other establishments that serve or sell alcohol may be liable for damages if they sold, furnished, or gave alcohol to people who cause an accident while they are visibly intoxicated. Party hosts can also be held responsible for injuries caused as a result of providing alcohol to anyone under 21 years old.
The laws governing this type of liability are known as Dram Shop laws. These laws say that it is illegal to serve alcoholic beverages to minors or anyone who is visibly intoxicated. If a bar owner or a host serves alcohol in this type of circumstance, the law says that they failed to take reasonable measures to prevent any harm caused by the intoxicated person.
Party hosts can follow these tips to help prevent drunk driving accidents during the holidays:
- Never serve alcohol to minors. It is illegal and dangerous.
- As a host, do not drink too much. By setting your own limits, you will better monitor your guests’ behavior and also set a good example at the same time.
- Hire a professional to serve alcohol. Hiring a professional bartender may make it easier to set limits on underage drinking and monitoring excessive drinking.
- Shut down the bar before the party ends. Putting away the alcohol an hour or so before the party ends can help reduce excessive consumption. Offer bottled water during the last hour instead.
- Monitor guests. If you see someone inebriated, make sure they have a safe ride home.
- Never pressure your guests to drink. This can create liability issues as well as put the lives of your guests in danger.
What Should You Do if You Are Hit by a Drunk Driver?
The number of tragic drunk driving accidents surge between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you are hit by a drunk driver during the holidays, take these steps to protect your safety and your rights:
- Call 911 to report the accident.
- Stay with your vehicle unless it is unsafe.
- Get the license plate number of the driver who hit you.
- Seek medical attention.
- Take photographs of the accident scene with your phone.
- Exchange information with the driver at fault if they are present and coherent.
- Do not admit fault.
- Call an experienced car accident lawyer.
For more than 70 years, our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP has represented individuals who have been injured through no fault of their own. Our track record of results speaks for itself, with more than a quarter of a billion dollars recovered for clients in the last decade alone.
The following two cases illustrate our ability to advocate on behalf of injured individuals and their families:
- $1.75 million settlement in Dram Shop case. An underage college student died after falling down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking. The young man’s BAC level was 0.320 at the time of his death. We recovered damages for the student’s family by proving liability on the part of the bar which served him alcohol although he was underage, as well as the landlord who owned the property that had a defective staircase and numerous building code violations.
- $1 million jury verdict for auto accident. The individual involved in the accident suffered a fractured pelvis and leg and other severe injuries. Our client was offered a low-ball settlement by the insurance company defending the case. We advised the client to decline the offer. When we took the case to trial, the jury issued a verdict in favor of our client and awarded $1 million.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Clients Injured in Alcohol-Related Collisions
If you have been seriously injured in an accident that was caused by a drunk driver, you need to seek legal counsel right away. Multiple parties may be at fault, including anyone who furnished alcohol to the drunk driver. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help you determine the best course of action. Call us today at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.