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Friday, December 30, 2011
By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
Holiday seasons are filled with social events – good times with good friends – and more than a few warnings against drinking and driving. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about four in 10 traffic-related deaths during the Christmas and New Year’s season involve drunk drivers.
But the danger of impaired drivers is nearly as startling all year long. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in every three U.S. traffic fatalities each year – one death every 48 minutes – is caused by impaired driving. According to the CDC, in the year 2010 alone, American adults drank too much and got behind the wheel 112 million times.
Impaired driving is the height of irresponsibility. Not only are you endangering yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road, even if you don’t cause an accident you still run the risk of losing your driver’s license or becoming uninsurable.
States have responded to the impaired-driving threat by lowering legal blood-alcohol limits to a maximum of .08 percent. In Oklahoma, charges of driving while impaired can be filed even if your blood alcohol content is as low as .05 percent, provided officers have other evidence of your impairment, such as reckless driving.
States also are employing more sobriety checkpoints, setting zero-tolerance laws for young drivers who drink, revoking the driver’s licenses of those convicted of DUI, and instituting campaigns emphasizing the importance of staying sober.
More important are the steps you should take anytime your social plans involve alcohol:
Should you commit even a first offense of driving under the influence in Oklahoma, there are serious consequences. You will face a criminal proceeding that could result in jail time of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. You will face an administrative hearing with the state Department of Public Safety in which your license could be lost for 180 days. And, even if you keep or regain your driver’s license, you will be considered “high risk” by insurance companies and charged far more for coverage than a safer driver would be – that is, by any company still willing to do business with you.
The tragedy of impaired driving accidents is compounded by the fact that they are so readily avoidable. Take responsible steps like designating a driver before ever drinking a drop, or step up and take responsibility for yourself or a friend by calling a cab at the end of the night, and neither you nor anyone else will have to deal with the tragic consequences of a drunk-driving accident.
For more information on any insurance topic in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma Insurance Department online at oid.ok.gov or call our Consumer Assistance Division at (800) 522-0071.