Impaired drivers present a hazard on the roads all year, but research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that drunk driving accidents are more prevalent in the summer months. In fact, alcohol-related driving fatalities are twice as likely in the summer compared to the winter.
There are many different reasons for the escalation in drunk driving car accidents in the summer months. The longer days and warmer weather encourages social gatherings where alcohol is served. The dry sunny weather causes drivers to think the roads are not as treacherous as they are during stormy winter conditions, so they think that it might be acceptable to have a few drinks before driving; however, this is not the case.
There are three major American holidays that fall during summer as well: Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Around these holidays, people embark on road trips to celebrate with friends and family, and alcohol is often a part of the holiday celebrations. An examination of accident statistics by the auto insurance industry ranks Independence Day as the most dangerous holiday for driving, followed by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Each of these holidays saw a spike in drunk driving incidents.
As the nation emerges from Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures, people are more eager than ever to get together and celebrate after a year of isolation. This summer, many road and safety experts are predicting that drunk driving accidents will be higher than previous years.
Teenage Drivers and Underage Drinking
Teenage drivers cause a significant amount of drunk driving accidents in the summer. Once school lets out, teenagers have more freedom and more time to spend out on the road. Whether they are gathering for recreation or going to a summer job, teenagers are the least experienced group of drivers and the most likely to make mistakes while behind the wheel. If they decide to drink and drive, the combination can be deadly.
The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is commonly known as the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer for teenagers because of the spike in fatal car crashes during this time. In summer, teenagers have more free time for socializing and may be using drugs and alcohol at parties and driving home afterwards. This endangers not only the teenage driver and their passengers, but everyone else around them sharing the roadways.
How can I Stay Safe in the Summer Months?
Knowing that there are more people drinking and driving during the summer months, motorists need to be proactive and drive defensively to lower the chance of being involved in an accident with a drunk driver. Smart steps that drivers can take include:
- Performing regular maintenance checks and keeping tires properly inflated with good treads.
- Using seat belts at all times and checking to make sure children’s car seats are installed correctly.
- Never using a cellphone while driving and avoiding all other distractions while behind the wheel.
- Designating a driver when attending social gatherings where alcohol will be served.
- Talking to teenage drivers about safe driving practices and setting a good example when driving with teenagers.
- Staying off the roads at night. Most fatal accidents involving alcohol happen between midnight and 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Avoiding driving during these times greatly reduces the risk of encountering a drunk driver.
What are the Laws for Drunk Driving in Virginia?
Virginia state laws regulating driving while intoxicated (DWI) are very detailed. In addition to prohibiting drivers from operating or driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or more, there are specific blood concentration limits designated for specific drugs. A person may be considered to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol if their ability to operate a vehicle safely is impaired, even if their blood alcohol concentration is below 0.08.
Other facts to know about Virginia’s DWI laws:
- There is a zero-tolerance policy toward drivers under the age of 21 years old that makes it illegal for them to operate a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.02 percent or more.
- In Virginia, the vehicle does not have to be moving for the driver to be convicted of a DWI.
- Anyone arrested for a DWI offense automatically loses their license for seven days.
- Conviction for a DWI offense in Virginia will stay on a person’s record as a prior for 10 years.
- If a juvenile is being transported at the time of the DWI offense and the driver is convicted, additional mandatory jail time of five days and possible additional fines are applicable in addition to all other fines and jail sentences.
Fines and Penalties for Drunk Driving
Penalties and fines increase with each subsequent offense conviction:
First Offense: Jail time up to 12 months, mandatory fine of a minimum of $250 and up to $2,500, a license suspension for one year, and a six month minimum term using an ignition interlock device as a condition of obtaining a restricted license.
Second Offense: Jail time of a minimum of 10 days and up to 12 months, mandatory fines ranging from a minimum of $500 to $2,500, a license suspension of three years, and an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months.
Third Offense: Jail time of a minimum of 90 days and up to five years, mandatory fines ranging from a minimum of $1,000 to $2,500, indefinite suspension of license, and ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months. A third offense is charged as a felony.
Drivers should also know that operating a vehicle on Virginia highways indicates consent to be tested upon arrest for impaired driving. The test can be performed by breath or blood to determine how much or if any alcohol has been consumed. Unreasonable refusal of a breath or blood test can result in suspension of the driver’s license for one year. Refusing to be tested a second time is a Class 1 misdemeanor and results in a three-year suspension of the driver’s license.
Virginia’s drunk driving laws are strict, but many drunk drivers will try to evade responsibility for their actions, especially if it is their first offense. Many people let their guard down during the summer months and do not think about how many drinks they have had before getting behind the wheel of a car.
Virginia Beach is a popular tourist destination, and this summer, it is expected that people will be eager to have reunion celebrations after more than a year spent in isolation and lockdowns. Many of these gatherings will involve binge drinking. Alcohol-related crashes are much more likely to inflict serious injuries or be fatal. Victims of drunk driving accidents deserve justice.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Victims Impacted by Drunk Driving Collisions
Summer sees a spike in the number of drunk driving accidents. If you were recently injured in a summertime collision, a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our experienced legal team helps victims injured by drunk driving car accidents. Call us at 757-352-2237 today or contact us online to schedule an appointment for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia we advocate for clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia as well as North Carolina and nationwide.