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DUI Injury Watch: Intoxication Among Drivers Not Always Obvious

A personal injury lawsuit stemming from a New Year’s Eve DUI crash has been settled for $1 million, according to the victim’s lawyers.

The 26-year-old victim suffered multiple fractured vertebrae in her back when the vehicle in which she was riding rolled over and struck a tree. The driver, now 31, had reportedly taken her eyes off the road for a moment to change the radio station. The vehicle drifted to the right, struck a tree stump and overturned. Tests later revealed the driver’s blood-alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit.

Of particular interest to our Deerfield Beach DUI injury lawyers was the fact that no one at the bar believed the driver to be intoxicated. According to witnesses, she wasn’t slurring her words. She wasn’t stumbling as she walked. She wasn’t being especially loud or boisterous – all things one might expect from someone who was heavily intoxicated.

The driver herself, an acquaintance of the victim, would later say she did not believe she was drunk at the time she got into the vehicle.

This is an important lesson to highlight heading into Memorial Day weekend celebrations. There is often a disparity between how drunk a person feels or seems and their true level of intoxicated.

In fact, one study conducted by biological psychologists at the Pennsylvania research firm IntoxiKon found that even trained professionals, such as police officers, were not always able to accurately assess a person’s degree of drunkenness.

The researchers showed videotaped interviews of seated drinkers to New Jersey police officers. The drinkers had blood-alcohol levels that ranged from a low of 0.08 percent to a high of 0.16 percent. The officers were then asked to gauge the individuals’ level of intoxication and how confident they were that those individuals were sober enough to drive.

In cases where the drinkers had blood-alcohol levels on the high end of the spectrum, officers were fairly easily able to ascertain intoxication. But when levels fell below 0.015 percent, they had a difficult time making accurate assumptions.

On the road, police officers have all sorts of tools at their disposal to determine a person’s level of intoxication. There are field sobriety tests, the smell of alcohol on one’s breath, admission of alcohol use, unsteadiness of feet, and of course, breathalyzers, urinalysis and blood tests.

However, friends and bartenders do not have this advantage, which is why it is always preferable to remain 100 percent sober before operating a vehicle.

Unfortunately, a study published recently in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, which analyzed subjects from the University of Florida, found that nearly 35 percent of designated drivers drove with blood-alcohol levels at 0.05 percent or higher.

If you are planning to a host a Memorial Day party, Mothers Against Drunk Driving offers the following tips:
–Don’t rely on coffee to sober up guests. It’s fine to serve it, but know that the only thing that can make someone sober is time.
–Recognize that wine and beer are just as intoxicating as hard liquor.
–Know that mixing drinks won’t help dilute alcohol. For example, carbon tonic water can cause alcohol to be absorbed more quickly. Fruit juices and other sweet mixers might encourage people to drink more.
–Never serve alcohol to someone under the age of 21. Not only is this illegal, you could later be held liable if that person is involved in a crash.
–Stop serving alcohol about 1.5 hours before the end of the party.
–Realize that you can’t always rely on a person’s physical appearance when determining whether they’ve had too much to drink.
–If a guest is too intoxicated to drive home, have the number of a taxi company handy.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Ex-Track Star Settles For $1 Million After Crash, May 9, 2014, By Christian Nolan, The Connecticut Law Tribune

More Blog Entries:
Dawkins v. Union Hospital – Not All Hospital Injuries are Medical Malpractice, May 6, 2014, Deerfield Beach Injury Lawyer Blog

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