As soon as the Thanksgiving Day turkey is consumed, there is a heightened awareness of impaired drivers on the road. The holiday season marks the most active for drunk drivers, with the day before Thanksgiving Day, the Thanksgiving Day Weekend, and New Year’s Day experiencing the highest concentration of intoxicated drivers and car accidents in Portland.
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 40% of traffic deaths that occur the week between Christmas and New Year’s are due to drunken driving. Approximately 400 drunk driving fatalities occur over the Thanksgiving holiday, as businesses are closed, people don’t work, and college students are home for the event. The day before Thanksgiving is its own drinking holiday, dubbed “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drunksgiving” as students come home to party with old classmates knowing they can sleep through their hangover and nurse it with stuffing the next day.
Caution is strongly advised at this time of year. One may be tempted to forgo driving as much as possible, but when reality sets in, the fact is that three-quarters of the country still depend on cars to get around. Most of us can’t imagine a full day of shopping without a car. Where else will we pack all the goodies we just bought for our family and friends? Even if you rely on your bike and public transport, it’s important to be alert of the drivers around you. The best thing to do is to watch out for key signs that a driver is intoxicated and then, to steer clear.
Signs of an Intoxicated Driver
Intoxication does not just mean that a driver had more beers than he could handle. In Oregon, the designation for an intoxication arrest is Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants. A DUII acknowledges that impairment can strike from a variety of sources. Whether a driver has had too many alcoholic drinks or is high on anything other than life, if he is impaired he is presumed unfit to drive a vehicle by law.
Drunk drivers are not always easy to catch. Law enforcement officers watch out for several signs of impairment before deciding to pull a driver over for a closer inspection. Possible signs include:
- Nearly striking an object or hitting an object such as lane markers
- Driving without headlights at night
- Drifting into the rumble strip
- Signaling that is inconsistent with their motions
- Stopping where there is no stop sign or red light
- Weaving within their lane
- Drifting into adjacent lanes
- Driving significantly below the posted speed limit
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Making wide turns
- Braking erratically
What should I do?
Be extra careful during the holiday season. While there is not much danger on Christmas Day, on Christmas Eve DUI related traffic stops rise about 30%. On New Year’s Day, alcohol is a factor in 42% of all accidents. The number of accidents rises when New Year’s Eve falls on a weekend. This year, NYE falls on a Saturday. What can you do to stay safe and welcome 2017 in one piece?
While it may be tempting to pass erratic drivers as soon as possible, realize that when a car is operated by a drunk driver, the direction that car is going remains completely unpredictable. Keep your distance and expect that the car won’t travel in a favorable direction. Always wear a safety belt. If you can get a good look at the car and license plate, report the driver immediately, but never attempt to personally stop him.
Drunk drivers face harsh penalties when convicted in Oregon, but by that point it is already too late to avoid the damage they have caused. To reduce your chances that you will encounter an impaired driver, it is safest to drive during the daytime. Since there are only a few hours of precious sunlight at this time of year, do all your night time driving before midnight, especially on weekends. If you have partaken in wet holiday festivities, do not become a statistic! Get a designated driver or spend the night.
Drunk driving losses cost the state of Oregon nearly a billion dollars a year. If you have been affected by a drunk driving accident, attorney Richard Rizk of Portland is here to serve you through this difficult time. The goal of RizkLaw is to recover every cent you deserve by law from your insurance company. If you have been injured, call (503) 245-5677.