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Drilling down on DWIs


Driving while under the influence is a serious problem in New York and throughout the U.S. While traffic deaths from drunk driving crashes have fallen by a third in the past three decades, still over 10,000 people have died from such crashes in recent years. DWI is a complicated issue, with societal factors, personality traits, celebrations for holidays and birthdays and even a person’s body chemistry playing a role. A close look at a few facts can reveal some surprising things about this common problem. 

People react differently to how alcohol affects them. In general, though, a person’s blood alcohol concentration follows predictable behavioral and physiological patterns. An article on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website states that only a small amount of alcohol impairs driving performance. After only a drink or two, a BAC of .02, driving performance is reduced in the areas of tracking a moving target and concentrating on more than one activity. A drink or two more can bring the BAC to .05, which can reduce coordination, impair steering skills and slow responses to emergency situations. At .08, a level that makes it illegal to drive anywhere in the U.S., concentration, speed control and information processing capability are degraded. 

Mew York state has many laws that seek to punish and prevent drunk driving. The New York Department of Motorized Vehicles lists at least 20 violations for impaired driving. Stopped drivers who refuse a chemical test receive a mandatory fine of $500 and license revocation for one year. The highest penalties go to drivers who have multiple DWIs and those with an aggravated DWI, which is defined by a BAC of .18 or higher.