If those obvious facts aren’t enough to keep an intoxicated biker out of the saddle, a new study reviewing all the penalties that come about when bikers decide to ride against the legal wind in the matter of drunk driving should certainly help.
With drunk driving causing nearly a third of all motor vehicle fatalities and with penalties for DUI varying widely by state, the leading personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015’s Strictest and Most Lenient States on DUI.
To help riders understand which states impose the harshest penalties on drunk drivers, WalletHub analyzed the enforcement rules in each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 15 key metrics. Their data set ranges from minimum jail sentences to ignition interlock device requirements that drastically reduce repeat arrests of previously convicted drunk drivers.
There are some that may ask why this is such an important topic. Well, drunk driving takes a terrible toll on the nation’s roads and highways every year. Also known as “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), alcohol-impaired driving was the cause of 31 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition to the loss of human life, the government estimates that drunk driving costs Americans nearly $60 billion per year in economic losses.
There is good news though. Since the 1980s when states first began to crack down on drunk driving, the rate of impaired driving and the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers has dropped considerably. As drunk driving fatalities declined 52 percent from 1982 to 2013 the real result has been many saved lives.
State severity at a glance
Some of this change can be attributed to evolving social attitudes, but new, tougher penalties for those caught driving under the influence have also had an impact, especially in reducing the number of repeat violators. For example, almost half the states now require all convicted DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicles they will be driving. These devices analyze the driver’s breath and won’t permit the car to start if alcohol is detected. The federal government estimates that these devices have reduced re-arrest rates of DUI offenders by 67 percent.
So which states have the most severe penalties for riding impaired?
Using fifteen key metrics such as jail sentences, the severity of a DUI conviction, the blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, etc the different laws and standards around the country were evaluated. The metrics were weighted so that the toughest ones, like jail sentences, and those shown to have the biggest impact on repeat offenders, like ignition interlock devices, are weighted more heavily.
Making the top of the charts is Arizona with a minimum of ten days in jail on the first offence and ninety on the second. Get caught for a third time in Arizona and it’s automatically considered a felony. The top three states suspend an offender’s license for three months with the top five considering the third offence an automatic felony.
Weighing in at number four, West Virginia has no minimum jail time for the first offense, but get caught a second time and a biker is looking at a minimum of 180 days in jail.
Maryland, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia and South Dakota are on the bottom of the charts, but even their lenient laws against drunk driving can put a serious high-side in a biker’s life.
A DUI conviction will hang around on an offenders records for five to fifteen years which means higher insurance and of course tougher convictions if caught again in that time.
Many times, it may not be yourself who’s throwing a leg over a motorcycle when they should be calling a cab, but a friend or riding buddy. What should you do?
“I think the key is to plan ahead, not only to identify the DD for a drinking group, but to make a commitment to intervene on behalf of others who are putting themselves and others at risk because of excessive alcohol consumption,” says E. Scott Geller, a professor and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior System in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech.
Other experts have a much more straight-forward approach.
“If it comes down to it,” Todd f. Lewis, Associate Professor of Counseling and Counseler Education at North Dakota State University says, ”Simply take the keys away.”