You can’t read the news without hearing about a celebrity who was charged with drinking and driving. Bad boy, Robert Downey Jr., is in the news again. This time, for receiving a full and unconditional pardon from California Gov. Jerry Brown. He was convicted in 1996 of a number of substance abuse related felonies, including DUI (driving under the influence of a substance). He completed his sentences and has had no criminal activity in ten years. This is a refreshing story of redemption.
During the holidays, more people are traveling on the roads to see family and friends. And more people are impaired from alcohol. 34,611 DUI arrests were made in Illinois in 2013. New Years Eve is ranked the 7th deadliest day of the year.
Kim Shird, a DUI evaluator and substance abuse counselor, warns people not to drink any amount of alcohol and drive. It is not worth the risk of harm to you or others.
It is also not worth the costs associated with a DUI, even if no one is hurt. The average cost for a DUI conviction in Illinois is $16,580. That includes high-risk insurance which is required for three years; legal fees; court costs; loss of four weeks income due to jail or classes; treatment; driver’s license reinstatement fees; and the installation, rental and monitoring fees of an interlock device if you are eligible for one. The cost is far greater if there are injuries or fatalities. $118,500 higher in additional costs for medical treatment, damages awarded to crash survivors, in-patient substance abuse programs, and legal fees for jury trials and civil proceedings. Jail time can be between three days to one year depending on the charge, damage to property or number of DUIs.
Ms. Shird asks “What would you do if you lost your license? How would you get to work without a license from six months to a year? Are you prepared for the significant disruption to your family members who provide your transportation? And then, there’s the embarrassment factor. Are you prepared to tell your family, friends and employer about your DUI?”
But here’s the thing. No one plans to get a DUI and no one plans to hurt anyone. And yet every holiday scores of people are killed. In Ms. Shird’s DUI class, the members stated that they based their decision to drive on how they felt. They felt fine and thought they could drive safely. They did not base their decision on the amount of alcohol consumed over a certain amount of time, or considered their body size. Everyone in her class was surprised by their blood alcohol content at the time of their arrest. Every one of them had faulty judgement. You are no different.
So here’s her advice. If you are going to drink, have a plan. And have a backup plan for the initial plan in case it fails.