Many holiday sentiments and songs suggest that "it's the most wonderful time of the year." However, it is also one of the most dangerous times for drivers due to the increased risk of drunk driving incidents during the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the winter weather, the increase in travel and the heightened levels of drinking that some will partake in this holiday season will all contribute to potential drunk driving accidents and arrests.
In the experience of the State College DUI defense attorneys here at Rehmeyer & Allatt, holiday weekends are a time for increased numbers of drunk driving accidents and criminal charges. This year, Christmas falls on a Thursday, as does New Year's Eve. These holiday eves and days are traditionally full of fun and festivities, and many people will be traveling to and from family dinners, work parties, and other events. Alcohol is usually an integral part of these celebrations that can pose a serious risk for drunk driving arrests and dangerous or fatal accidents.
Because of the increased risks and likelihood of drunk drivers traveling the roads this season, police presence is typically heavier around holiday weekends, with numerous officers on patrol to catch erratic or suspicious drivers and respond to potential collisions or accidents. Just as the number of drunk drivers increases around the holidays, so does the number of arrests and charges.
Are You Driving Drunk?
Pennsylvania law states that a driver can face charges of driving under the influence of alcohol where an individual is operating a motor vehicle after "imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving" or if the alcohol concentration in a driver's blood or breath (BAC)is .08% or higher. This is an extremely important point to note for frequent drinkers who have a higher tolerance for intoxicating effects of alcohol: If you are drinking alcohol at holiday parties in and around the State College area, while you may feel "ok to drive" when it is time to leave and think that you can safely operate a vehicle, evidence of a BAC of .08% or higher can result in a DUI conviction even if you were safely operating your car.
An individual's blood-alcohol is typically determined using a breathalyzer machine or more frequently, by drawing blood following an arrest and transportation to a local hospital. It is also important to note that Pennsylvania penalizes operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance under Pennsylvania law. The likelihood that a person will be stopped, investigated and ultimately arrested for these infractions increases dramatically if there is evidence to suggest you have been drinking when you initially encounter police such as empty bottles in the car, slurred or impaired speech, the smell of liquor or beer or erratic driving, among other things.
People are affected differently by alcohol, and the number of drinks you can have before you reach the point of impairment, or the 0.08% limit, depends greatly on your tolerance, gender, weight, age and the rate at which you were drinking. Furthermore, as noted above, it is important to remember that some people may not "feel" impaired even though their blood alcohol is over the legal limit. Impairment typically involves a loss of control in motor skills, blurred vision, slower reaction times and a lowered sense of judgment and self-control.
Please also remember that under Pennsylvania law, you can be found guilty of DUI even if your BAC is below .08% if the prosecution can demonstrate that you had consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol to render you incapable of safely driving. For those that may only have one or two drinks a year during the holidays, this is an important point to note. Although many drunk drivers think they are fine to drive, especially if the distance is short ("Oh, I'm just headed home around the corner; I'll be fine!"), even a two-minute drive is enough to warrant criminal charges if you are found drunk behind the wheel when an officer pulls you over.
Wintry conditions do not help the risk of drunk driving accidents, and snowy or icy roads can be problematic for even the most seasoned, alert drivers. Driving drunk puts you at increased risk for impairment and slower reaction times, and when those are combined with a winter storm, the entire situation can put you and other drivers around you in danger. Skidding or stopping suddenly is made ten times harder when your reaction time has been compromised.
Contact an Attorney
At Rehmeyer & Allat Attorneys at Law, our lawyers represent students and Pennsylvania drivers who have been charged with DUI/DWI crimes during the holidays and all other times throughout the year. To discuss your legal options, contact one of our DUI defense attorneys today.