Tips to avoid drinking and driving

Drinking and driving can result in serious injury, fatality, damage and legal ramifications. Protect yourself from the dangers of drinking and driving.

Man with wine glass handing over car keys.

Plenty of people know that drinking and driving don't mix but, unfortunately, many still do it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol impaired driver each day.

What is drinking and driving?

States differ in what they call it. Some use terms like driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, drunk driving or impaired driving. All states except Utah consider a baseline blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% a crime. For those under age 21, zero-tolerance laws criminalize driving with very small amounts of alcohol. States may also have enhanced penalties in place for those who drive with very high BACs, minors in the vehicle or multiple convictions.

The consequences of drinking and driving

When you drink and drive, you're compromising cognitive ability and responsiveness, which increases your risk for an accident. Get caught, and a single drinking and driving infraction may have legal, financial, personal and even professional ramifications.

  • Most states suspend your license for varying lengths of time — sometimes up to a year. Multiple convictions typically equal a revocation of a license. Drivers with a commercial driver's license (CDL) might have their licenses suspended for a longer period.
  • The employers of drivers with a CDL could also be liable for the actions of the driver. The driver's future employment might also be impacted.
  • Some states require mandatory jail time — even for a first offense — as well as fees and fines.
  • You may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car; if it detects alcohol, it will prevent you from operating the vehicle.
  • A single drunk driving conviction may lead to job loss or restrictions (i.e., operating company vehicles).
  • Higher insurance rates almost always accompany drunk driving convictions.
  • If you sustained injuries in an auto accident as a result of your drunk driving, depending on the laws of your state, your insurance company may deny payment for treatment of your injuries.

How can you detect drunk drivers?

Law enforcement officials say there are several signs associated with drinking and driving. Keeping these signs in mind may help to avoid a dangerous situation:

  • Making wide turns
  • Weaving, swerving, drifting or straddling the center line
  • Almost striking an object or vehicle
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving at a very slow speed
  • Stopping without cause
  • Braking erratically
  • Responding slowly to traffic signals
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Driving after dark with headlights off

How can you stop drinking and driving?

Always make good decisions and plan ahead. Here are some solutions to avoid drunk driving:

  • Always choose a non-drinking designated driver — every time you go out.
  • If you go out alone, do not drink alcohol. Order a non-alcoholic beverage such as a soft drink or water.
  • Never feel pressured to drink alcohol. If you do plan on drinking, do so responsibly. Eat plenty of food and drink water.
  • If you've been drinking, call a taxi or car-sharing service for a ride like Uber or Lyft.
  • Never get in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
  • If you can safely do so, protect others by taking their keys if they attempt to drive after consuming alcohol. They may be mad at you, but the alternative is much worse.

Be careful on the road. Pull over and report drivers you suspect to be under the influence by calling 9-1-1. Learn more about drinking and driving laws in your state.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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