American Attitudes about Drunk Driving Penalties

40% of Americans think state drunk driving penalties are not harsh enough, reveals poll.

Despite the legal consequences of drinking and driving, the NHTSA reports that across the United States, nearly 30 people are killed every single day in drunk-driving accidents, which is roughly equivalent to one death every 50 minutes. Even though bars have been closed and traffic levels reduced with fewer cars on roads due lockdown, some states – such as Colorado and Florida – have reported an increase in DUIs since the start of the pandemic. Could this be because more people are drinking due to the financial and emotional stress of the last year? Moreover, could America’s DUI issue be solved by tightening the reigns on state liquor laws?

Sunrise House Treatment Center, a leading addiction treatment provider, conducted a survey of 3,320 respondents and found that 40% of Americans think the current drunk driving penalties in their state are not harsh enough and should be stricter.

Broken down across the country, this figure was highest in New Mexico, where 73% of people think drunk driving penalties should be harsher. Comparatively, those in Connecticut seem to think their state laws are sufficient with only 18% saying they should be more strict.

Sunrise House created the following infographic illustrating these results across the country, which you can view here:

The research also found that almost a quarter (24%) of drinkers admit they would still drive first thing in the morning after a big night of drinking. Currently, all states have in place a Blood Alcohol Content limit of 0.08% to drive a car – although concerningly, a third (33%) of respondents said they were not even aware of this figure.

Although this is the legal limit, this volume of alcohol still has the ability to impact a person’s driving ability in terms of short-term memory loss, reduced information processing capability and impaired perception. If you’ve been drinking in excess through the night and plan on driving the following morning, it is imperative that you get enough hours of sleep to allow your BAC to return to normal before doing so. Even a small amount of alcohol can have a negative impact on your driving ability. In fact, in 2018, there were 1,878 people killed in alcohol-related car accidents in which drivers had BACs under the legal limit – between 0.01% and 0.07%.

Encouragingly, more than a third (36%) of respondents feel that the law should be changed to a zero-tolerance alcohol driving policy, meaning people will need to have a BAC of 0 in order to legally be allowed to drive.

However, more than a quarter (28%) think it’s worse to use a cell phone while driving than it is to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Considering distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,142 people in the US in 2019, neither scenario should be favored over the other.

About The Contributor
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of Sunrise House is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers hav … Read More
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