Drunk Driving Wrecks
Anytime vehicles collide, there is the potential for serious injury.
However, at Associates at Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our drunk driving injury lawyers know crashes involving drunk drivers tend to result in a greater severity of injuries and a higher likelihood of death. One reason for this is that while sober drivers will instinctively take evasive action to avoid or lessen the impact, drunk drivers often fail to react sufficiently (if at all) to mitigate the severity of the collision.
By the time an impaired driver realizes he is in danger, it is often too late to execute any meaningful evasive action. This is why accident reconstruction experts can often tell almost immediately whether a crash involved a drunk driver: The tire tracks and skid marks are either short or nonexistent.
It’s therefore no surprise that drunk driving accounts for one-third of all traffic fatalities in the U.S., despite the fact that impaired drivers represent a relatively small portion of motorists.
In Florida, alcohol-related crashes claimed nearly 700 lives in 2012. Between 2010 and 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association reported 64 people were killed by drunk drivers in Lee County alone. Another 28 died in Collier during that time and an additional 16 lost their lives in Charlotte. Hundreds more sustained serious and permanent injuries.
Drunk Driving and Slowed Reaction Time
Numerous studies have shown drivers who are impaired lack the physical capacity to react quickly enough to roadway dangers.
Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio reported alcohol impairs a motorist’s ability to concentrate on driving-related tasks. These include:
- Vehicle speed
- Vehicle position
- Other traffic activity
- Tuning the radio
- Conversing with passengers
- Ability to interpret situations, signs, or other signals
Reaction time may be slowed by as much as 15 to 25 percent. Alcohol also clouds judgment in such a way that leaves a driver easily confused and impedes both fine and gross motor skills. Visual acuity may be slashed by up to 32 percent. Pupils become dilated, which results in a kind of tunnel vision and slows pupil response, which can create problems in responding to everything from traffic signals to oncoming headlights.
While a person can experience the dulling effects of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of just 0.02 percent, the average BAC of fatally injured drinking drivers is 0.16 percent, according to the NHTSA. A drunk driver is 385 times more likely to be involved in a single-vehicle crash than a sober driver.
The danger is multiplied exponentially when these drivers have additionally consumed cocaine, marijuana, or other mind-altering substances.
Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that most impaired drivers who kill someone on the road are repeat offenders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that motorists with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher involved in deadly crashes were four times more likely to have a prior conviction for DUI than drivers who were substance-free.
Revocation of driver’s licenses has proved ineffective in solving the problem. This is why many advocacy groups are pushing for ignition interlock requirements for first-time offenders. An ignition interlock device is a type of breathalyzer installed in a vehicle that will prevent the engine from starting if the driver’s breath sample exceeds a certain BAC. In Florida, it is up to the judge’s discretion whether to require the device for a first-time offender. It becomes mandatory with a second conviction.
Costs Sustained by DUI Victims in Southwest Florida
The impact of these crashes is often lifelong. While a DUI arrest and conviction is undoubtedly costly for a defendant in terms of fines, fees, and even incarceration, the toll for that driver’s victims is usually far greater.
Researchers at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland found the average DUI injury in Florida costs $154,000. Fatalities resulting from drunk driving, meanwhile, cost an average of $5.2 million – each.
Injuries sustained in drunk driving crashes are often catastrophic, extending far beyond the typical broken bones and bruises. DUI victims who survive have reported injuries including:
- Neck damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Permanent scarring
In many situations, victims never fully recover.
Victims of drunk drivers are entitled to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering, while their spouses may be entitled to collect damages for loss of consortium.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a drunk driving accident in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.