Drunk Driving Cases

US Should Look to Norway for Drunk Driving Laws

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In response to a question I sent out on what other people suggest for DUI laws and protection measures, one reader stated that US should follow Norway’s laws for drinking and driving to prevent drunk driving car accidents, which often leave victims extremely injured or dead. I looked into the laws for Norway and they state that the legal drinking limit is about .02 BAC compared to the US of .08 BAC.

Norway is dead serious about stopping drunk driving and preventing senseless deaths and injuries related to car accidents. Norway’s .02 BAC level basically means that you cannot even have one drink and drive, otherwise you could potentially lose your drivers license for one year, lose one month’s salary, and go to jail. If your BAC is between .10-.15 you would go to jail for a minimum of 21 days in addition to losing your license for a year.

The problem in the US with .08 BAC limits is that people can have one drink and sometimes two drinks and blow below a .08 BAC, even though they may exhibit signs of slow reaction times and poor motor functions, diminishing their ability to drive. In the US, people believe they are good to drive after drinking because it was just a couple drinks and they feel fine. In Norway, people drink and they do not risk driving because they have had a drink and know they could get a DUI and lose their license even though they are perfectly capable of driving, in American standards of thinking.

If the US had Norway’s DUI laws, people would not even have to debate whether they are too drunk or not to drive. A person that has had any amount of alcohol can easily reason with themselves that they drank alcohol and will blow over a .02 BAC. This takes the decision making/debate out of drinking and driving, which is the biggest problem with people who drink and drive. It’s not until they get caught and blow over a .08 BAC or that they crash and hurt someone that they realize they were not actually good to drive.

If we are truly serious about stopping drunk driving car accidents and countless senseless deaths, we should take the debate out of people who are clearly not in the right mind to make a decision. We should advocate for a lower drunk driving limit if we truly want to make a difference with drunk driving car accidents.

Andrew CherinUS Should Look to Norway for Drunk Driving Laws
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BAC Readers in Bars and Restaurants?

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What role do bars and restaurants have to play in preventing or proliferating drunk drivers from hitting the road? Many drunk drivers come from bars and restaurants where they drink too many in social situations. However, there are still people that drink and drive after coming from a party or alone at their own house.

Washington state has laws that state that bars and restaurants will be liable for over serving their patrons and share financial responsibility for any accidents that their over served patrons cause to others. This is known as dram shop laws.

The theory is that bars and restaurants are profiting off of others and the communities loss and costs. When a drunk driver leaves a bar and kills someone, the community, tax payers, and everyone loses. However, the bar may get away with the added bar tab unless someone can track the drinking of the driver to that bar, at which they could be liable for $1 million or more in damages that someone or their family sustained because of a drunk driver seriously injuring or killing someone.

Most bars and restaurants carry $1million in insurance coverage to cover the very instance of someone drinking too much at their business and injuring another person by drinking and driving. The insurance limit should be much higher, however, as someone being injured or killed by a drunk driver suffer far more than $1 million in damages.

Drunk drivers are usually irresponsible people in general and carry low if any insurance coverage. In Washington State, the minimum insurance limit is $25,000, far too low. For a $20 to $50 more a month, people can get $500,000 in insurance coverage, but everyone is trying to save money. Most drunk drivers do not have a high amount of insurance coverage and repeat offenders are already paying increased premiums so they may opt out of the higher coverage or any insurance at all.

What can bars and restaurants do to prevent people from drinking and driving? Bars and restaurants must train their staff to know and recognize signs of impairment and not serve alcohol to these people. One way that bars and restaurants could know for sure how drunk someone is, is to install BAC machines at their bar and only serve people below the legal limit.

Installing a BAC machine and bars and restaurants can be an effective way to prevent their staff from over serving people that have been drinking and are too drunk. However, this will only go so far unless another rule is put into place: no sharing alcohol with others only giving one drink per person, no more pitchers. Combining these rules would help combat drunk drivers from hitting the road and allowing bars to not be sued as often for over service.

Obviously, this would not be the best for the bar or restaurants pockets as they make more money when more drinks are consumed. However, this would go a long way to preventing people from drinking too much and getting behind the wheel. Preventing drunk driving car accidents should be our goal, not profits of bars and restaurants.

How do you know who is driving and who had a designated driver or is taking an Uber or Lyft home? This could be a huge problem with making BAC machines mandatory for all bars. However, public intoxication is also a crime that is to be prevented from bars. What is the legal BAC limit for public intoxication? It is up to the officers discretion but .08 BAC is a factor in determining if someone is drunk or not. A person could walk into the street drunk and get hit by a car.

Portable BAC readers are a lot more affordable today than they were say 20 years ago. You can go to Costco and buy one for about $150. Bars could easily afford to buy these.

How reliable are BAC readers? People are drunk at different levels and BAC machines are not all the same for calculating levels, but they have gotten better. However, .08 BAC is .08 BAC and the legal limit, so that is not a good argument. Maybe requiring bars and restaurants to have BAC machines would create more accurate machines so that police use the same machines.

Anything that we can do to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and killing others should be considered. What are your ideas?

Andrew CherinBAC Readers in Bars and Restaurants?
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Are Washington DUI Laws Tough Enough?

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How does Washington State’s DUI laws rank compared to other states and are we tough enough to prevent people from drinking and driving? One website ranks Washington State 15/50 on one leading search website but are they actually tough enough to deter people from driving drunk and stop repeat offenders? Conversely, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Ranked Washington State 32/50 states in their 2017 rankings. Repeat offenders are the most dangerous offenders as they increase the likelihood of killing someone in a car accident each time they repeat offend.

Washington State has a minimum sentencing guideline for first offenders who drink and drive with BAC under .15 of one day in jail and 90 day license suspension for first offenders, 30 days and two year license revocation for a second DUI, and 90 days and three year license revocation for a third DUI, if they occur within seven years of each other.

For a BAC at or above .15, Washington State has minimum sentencing guidelines of two days in jail and 1 year license revocation for first offenders, 45 days and 900 day license revocation for a second DUI, and 120 days and four year license revocation for a third DUI, if they occur within seven years of each other.

A fourth DUI within ten years is a class B felony that comes with at most 10 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000.

When a person injures another person in a DUI car accident, vehicular assault, the defendant receives a class B felony which is subject to at most 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

When a person kills another person in a DUI car accident, vehicular homicide, the defendant receives a class A felony which is subject to life in prison and a fine up to $50,000.

In comparison, a second DUI is a felony in Oklahoma with jail time of one year to 7 years and they count your DUI’s for 10 years. In Arizona, considered the strictest DUI state a 1st DUI comes with 10 day mandatory jail time with a second DUI getting you 90 days in jail. Arizona also has another level of offense for BAC levels at or above .20 that come with 45 days in jail for 1st time offenders and 180 days for 2nd time offenders.

Some people will state that jail time is not a good thing for tax payers and for getting people to stop drinking and driving. Many states including Washington have electronic home monitoring, ignition interlock devices mandatory for cars, and car drivers license suspensions and revocations (meaning you have to take the drivers test again).

What will it take to stop people from drinking and driving? Do people need to sit in jail for years at a time to get sober and think about what they are doing? Will sitting in a jail cell with no ability to drink cure their addiction and stop them from driving? Alternatively, do electronic home monitoring devices and drinking programs detecting alcohol do a good job stopping drinking?

It is hard to tell which one is right and which one will stop people from drinking and driving. Initial tough laws like mandatory jail sentences put a stigmatism on people that may prevent them from getting jobs, but obviously deservedly so, but will it more likely lead to more drinking and more problems?

Do prior convictions hurt or help stop people from continuing to drinking and driving? A DUI in Washington will not count for a prior after 7 years but will count to for a 4th DUI if done in 10 years. Should these priors last longer on people’s records?

Do mandatory license suspensions and revocations do enough? Do we need to do more to make sure people are not driving on suspended or revoked licenses? Can we hold their family members accountable for the actions of the drunk driver who continues to drink and drive on a suspended license?

Many of these questions remain unsolved because we just do not have enough data on which is right and which is wrong. There are so many variables among states to determine which state has it right and which need to change their laws.

The Mothers against drunk driving organization believes that states should have sobriety check points, ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenders with .08 blood alcohol content and above, administratively revoke driving privileges upon arrest for drunk driving, create enhanced penalties for those who drive drunk with children in the vehicle, and adopt penalties and expedited warrants for suspected drunk drivers who refuse an alcohol test.

Washington State does not allow sobriety check points, as there is a belief that such check points are unconstitutional.

1,921 people died in drunk driving car accidents from 2003-2012 in Washington State according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Arizona had 2,912 people die in the same period of time and Oklahoma had 2,205 people die in drunk driving related car accidents. Arizona and Washington have roughly the same amount of people living in each state while Oklahoma has less than half of the population of either state.

We can always do more to help prevent people from drinking and driving. Educating our youths the dangers of drinking and driving, teaching people how to use ride sharing apps to get a ride home, better access to counseling for alcohol addiction, detection programs to report drunk drivers early, police patrols to catch drunk drivers, and others, can combine to help us prevent drunk drivers from taking our loved ones. Please do not drink and drive.

Andrew CherinAre Washington DUI Laws Tough Enough?
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Drunk Driving Car Accidents

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Being injured in a Seattle car accident with a drunk driver can have life altering consequences. In the flash of an eye, the drunk driver can seriously alter the course of someone’s life and their family’s lives as well.

Drunk driving is a serious issue even today with all of the potential ways to get home besides driving themselves, like Uber, Lyft, Lightrail, the bus, etc. There are too many options to make the excuse that someone had to drive home from the bar or club when they were drunk. This excuse is inexcusable.

How to recover against a drunk driver?

If you are injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, you can make a claim against their insurance company. The minimum limits on insurance coverage in Seattle is $25,000, hardly enough to even cover one hospital bill.

With some statistics showing nearly 50% of people driving around with bare minimum or no insurance coverage, everyone should get uninsured or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage added to your policy today. UIM insurance stands in and covers the additional damages that you suffered that were not covered by the policy of the drunk driver. This can cover lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc. Depending on how much coverage you buy, this could significantly help you if you are hit by a drunk driver.

What if the defendant and your UIM insurance is not enough?

Drunk driving car accidents cause drastic injuries that can have $500,000 in medical bills alone. If you or the defendant don’t have combined car insurance policies of $1,000,000 or more, you probably are not getting completely compensated for your injuries.

In the likely event that there is not enough insurance coverage to go around, you may have to look for other avenues to obtain compensation for your injuries. If other cars were involved, you may have another avenue to pursue that car’s insurance coverage.

Bars and restaurants can be liable for their drunk drivers

However, a more likely source of recovery is the bar or bars that the defendant who was drunk driving got hammered at. Bars are liable for over serving alcohol to people that are obviously intoxicated. The reason is that bars are making money off of selling lots and lots of alcohol, often taking advantage of people who are too drunk to understand when they have had too much to drink.

The state of Washington, like many other states, believes that bar owners and serves should prevent people from getting too drunk to drive. In Washington state, the legal blood alcohol limit is .08, which can be as little as two alcoholic drinks. Many people drink far more than two alcoholic drinks when they frequent a bar.

To make bar owners and servers more responsible so they don’t take advantage of drunk people and to keep drunk drivers off the road, the state of Washington created a statute which holds bars responsible for their patrons who get too drunk and hit someone while drunk driving. This is called the dram shop statute.

What is the dram shop statute?

The dram shop statute states that bars must refuse to serve people that are obviously intoxicated or they will be responsible for injuries that are caused by the drunk driver. The state requires training for bar tenders to detect over intoxicated patrons.

Bars are jointly and severely liable for the injuries caused by drunk drivers that got drunk at their bar. This means that the bar can be responsible for 100% of the damages that are caused despite the other person’s fault in driving drunk.

Bars in Seattle are generally required to have a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability insurance for these very reasons.

Dram shop cases are very tough and require a lot of investigation to determine that someone was over served while at a certain bar. However, most people go to bars or clubs with friends. There will be witnesses to see how drunk someone was at the bar or club and someone saw them continue to be able to buy drinks besides obvious signs of intoxication.

Witnesses are hard to find and their testimony may become vague or clouded over time. For these reasons, it is important to hire a Seattle personal injury lawyer as soon as possible in order to collect and preserve vital evidence to your injury case. Call today for a free consultation (206) 850-6716 or email andrew@lawcherin.com

Andrew CherinDrunk Driving Car Accidents
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