The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 30, 2013

DUI statistics should be sobering, can be costly for drivers

BECKLEY — In spreading the spirit of the new year, drivers should be aware that consuming spirits during the celebration can be costly.

Court costs and fees vary by state, but in West Virginia, a first offense drunk driving charge can mean up to six months in jail, fines up to $1,000 and license suspension for up to six months. Maximum penalties can be leveled if blood alcohol content is determined to be .15 or above.

A person is considered legally drunk with a BAC of .08. Third offense DUIs are felonies, and have much stiffer consequences. One to three years jail time, a maximum fine of $5,000 and driver’s license suspension for one year can all be consequences of a third-time offense. In addition, an ignition interlock is required.

West Virginia State Police Trooper Michael Efrid said last week that DUI continues to be a problem, but one that, statistically, is getting better.

Efrid said DUI fatalities accounted for 110 deaths in the state in 2005; after a peak of 138 in 2007, he said the state recorded 112 alcohol-related fatalities in 2010.

Alcohol-related injuries were down considerably, as well, he  said, comparing more than 2,400 in 2005 to 710 in 2010.

Efrid attributes the statistical decrease to stepped-up patrols and enforcement of the state’s drunk driving laws, and people becoming more aware of the consequences of drunk driving.

“People are more aware than they used to be,” Efrid said. “I think that makes people think twice.”

 According to well.wvu .edu, these six facts should be sobering:

-- Drunk driving is the most frequently committed crime in the United States.

-- About 30 percent of all Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related car crash during their lifetime.

-- More than 40 percent of all fatal auto accidents are alcohol-related.

-- An alcohol-related crash kills one person every 31 minutes and injures one person every two minutes.

-- Auto accidents are the greatest single cause of death for young people between the ages of 6 and 27. Almost half of these accidents involve alcohol.

-- Your chance of being involved in a drunk-driving accident increases dramatically with every two beers you drink. Have a six-pack and your chances of being in a drunk-driving accident are 44 percent.

-- 1,700 college students die each year from alcohol-related accidents, including car crashes.

-- Approximately 600,000 college students are injured under the influence of alcohol, many of which are automobile-related.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving offers these tips on their website:

-- Beer and wine are just as intoxicating as hard liquor. A 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce wine cooler and an ounce and a half of liquor contain the same amount of alcohol.

-- Don’t rely on someone’s physical appearance to determine if he or she has had too much to drink.

-- Mixers won’t help dilute alcohol. Carbonated mixers like club soda or tonic water cause alcohol to be absorbed into a person’s system more quickly. Fruit juice and other sweet mixers mask the taste of alcohol and may cause people to drink more.

-- As guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the non-drinking designated driver.

-- Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach.

-- Avoid too many salty snacks, which tend to make people thirsty and drink more.

-- Offer non-alcoholic beverages or mocktails for nondrinking designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol.

-- Have fun — but not too much fun. To be a good host, you should stay within your limits in order to make sure your guests stay within theirs.

-- Close the bar 90 minutes before the party ends and serve a great dessert treat with coffee. Remember, only time sobers someone who has been drinking.

— E-mail: ppritt@register-herald.com

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