The holiday season continues and there will be an increased police presence in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where our law firm represents person charged with crimes and offenses
Our criminal defense law firm wishes you and your family happy holidays but please enjoy them responsibly! If you do plan on hitting the roads this year, here are some important statistics about drunk driving.
Pennsylvania DUI Statistics
Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of traffic deaths in America, with drunk drivers causing 32 deaths a day according to the United States Department of Transportation. In 2020, the death toll from drunk driving was a staggering 11,654, which was a 14 percent increase from 2019. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a major problem in many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It costs the nation over $44 billion annually.
This post highlights Pennsylvania DUI statistics and information on the prevalence of drunk driving in the state, together with key facts and figures about blood alcohol levels, and what to do if you’re arrested for a DUI in PA. To find help for an alcohol addiction click here.
How Alcohol Affects Driving
Driving while impaired can be deadly. Alcohol is proven to reduce brain function and impair thinking, rational thought, and hand-eye coordination — all critical functions to operate a car.
The process of intoxication occurs when alcohol levels increase in a person’s body. Alcohol gets absorbed by the stomach and small intestine, passes into the bloodstream, and raises a person’s blood alcohol level (also known as blood alcohol concentration or BAC). The risk of a crash increases significantly once a person’s BAC is 0.8 grams of alcohol per deciliter or greater. In all states (except Utah, which has a lower level of 0.5 g/dL) it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.8 or higher.
Stats on Drunk Driving in PA
Drinking and driving is a top safety issue for the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Their annual Crash Facts and Statistics report revealed key statistics about drunk driving in PA. While drunk driving had been showing a decline over the last five years, alcohol-related injuries rose dramatically in 2021.
Evaluating Pennsylvania DUI Statistics 2020
In 2020, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 7 percent of total crashes in Pennsylvania and 26 percent of people fatally injured in car accidents. As such, alcohol-related collisions were 4.3 times more likely to result in fatal injury.
Additional key Pennsylvania DUI stats in 2020 reveal there were:
- 7,700 alcohol-related crashes (averaging 21 per day)
- 293 alcohol-related fatalities
- 89 percent of fatal alcohol-related crashes (involving both drivers and passengers) were driven by the drinking driver
- 75 percent of impaired drivers drove their own vehicle
- 74 percent of drunk drivers were male
- 70 percent of the alcohol-related crashes were at night, usually at the weekend
Evaluating Pennsylvania DUI Statistics 2021
According to the PennDOT 2021 Crash Facts and Statistics report, there was a sharp rise in alcohol-related crashes between 2020 and 2021. Data revealed:
- 9,230 alcohol related crashes (up from 7,700 in 2020)
- An average of 25 alcohol-related accidents a day
- 311 alcohol-related fatalities (a rise from 293 in 2020)
- 94 percent of alcohol-related fatalities involved the drinking driver
- 73 percent of drunk drivers were male
- 16 people injured every day in alcohol-related traffic crashes
BAC Limits in Pennsylvania
In 2003, Act 24 lowered the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration from .10 to .08. Driving over 0.08 percent BAC in Pennsylvania is illegal. The law also allows publicized sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlocks.
Which Substances Qualify for a DUI in PA?
In Pennsylvania, a driver could be arrested for DUI if they are impaired by any substance, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
PennDOT further indicates that, in addition to alcohol, driving under the influence relates to motorists affected by drugs and prescription medication, or a combination of these.
Annual Data for DUI Arrests in PA
According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data, there were:
- 40,237 DUI-drug arrests in 2020
- 44,531 DUI-drug arrests in 2021
- 35,023 DUI charges in 2021, double than in 2011
Comparing PA DUI Stats to Other States
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of Pennsylvania drivers who report driving after drinking too much in the last 30 days is higher than the national average, at 1.8 percent (compared to 1.7 percent nationally).
Nationally, drugs and alcohol are involved in 29 percent of motor vehicle crashes, compared to 8 percent of alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania (PennDOT, 2021). However, deaths from impaired driving in Pennsylvania accounted for 25 percent of fatalities. The state with the highest alcohol-related fatalities in 2018 was Texas, who had 1,439 deaths as a result of alcohol-impaired driving, followed by California with 1,069 fatalities in 2018, and third was Florida, with 814 deaths caused by drunk driving.
In terms of DUIs, the CDC reported that in 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. This equates to one percent of the self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
Impaired Driving Enforcement in Pennsylvania
The laws around driving under the influence of substances vary in Pennsylvania. The 2003 Driving Under the Influence Law created a tiered approach to DUI enforcement and treatment. depending on BAC and prior offenses. According to PennDOT, the three DUI levels are:
- General Impairment (.08 to 0.99 percent)
- High BAC (.10 to .159 percent)
- Highest BAC (.16 and higher)
First time offenders with general BAC impairment usually receive penalties that include an ungraded misdemeanor, up to 6 months’ probation, a $300 fine, requirement to participate in alcohol highway safety school, and treatment for alcohol addiction when ordered. Whereas those with no prior offenses but a high BAC face a 12-month driving suspension, 48 hours to six months in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, alcohol highway safety school, and treatment when ordered.
Repeat DUI offenders may also receive an ungraded misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, 5 days to six months in prison, $300 to $5,000 fine, and treatment when required. Those with prior offenses in Pennsylvania are also required to participate in an ignition interlock system.
For underage drinkers, Pennsylvania has a Zero Tolerance law that carries serious penalties. Those under 21 years old and convicted of driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood, may face a 12-18-month license suspension, 28 hours to six months in jail, and fines from $500-$5,000.
What is an Ignition Interlock System?
First time and repeat offenders caught driving under the influence with a high blood alcohol level are required by law to have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. The system is also required for those who receive an operating privilege suspension because of a chemical test violation.
The ignition interlocking system works by requiring the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before they start the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, it will not allow the ignition to crank, meaning the driver won’t be able to operate their vehicle. The ignition interlocking system also requires drivers to blow into the device at several points while driving.
According to PennDOT, the system prevented more than 78,000 impaired driving attempts in 2019.
First Steps if Arrested for a DUI in PA
You should be aware of the financial implications of driving under the influence. Fines for DUI convictions range from $300 to $5,000. And those figures do not include the almost certain increase in car insurance payments. A DUI can raise insurance premiums by over $1,000…if the insurance company agrees to continue providing coverage. Insurance providers can refuse to insure anyone charged with a DUI, especially those who are repeat offenders.
Clearly, you can face serious consequences if charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, including hefty fines, suspension of driving privileges, potential installation and use of an interlock system, and significant jail time. So, what is the first thing you should do if arrested for drunk driving? Hire an experienced attorney to represent you in a court of law. This is especially important if you have a prior conviction or convictions, as Pennsylvania law is tough on repeat offenders. Without expert legal representation, you will likely face much harsher penalties.
Our criminal defense law firm wishes you and your family a happy and safer holiday season!
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