That's why law enforcement officials step up
their efforts to deter drinking and driving during peak periods of
Across the United States, the law is clear. It's a
crime for a driver to operate a motor vehicle, including snowmobiles
and all-terrain vehicles, while impaired by alcohol or drugs,
including prescribed and over-the-counter medications, according to
FindLaw.com, the nation's leading source of free online legal
information. Driving under the influence, a DUI, or driving while
intoxicated, a DWI, can carry significant consequences that can
affect all aspects of your life, from jail time to revoked driving
privileges to dramatically higher insurance rates.
The use of alcohol and other drugs also extends beyond the roads
to the slopes. In Colorado, for example, under the Ski Safety Act of
1979, it is "unlawful to ride a lift or to use any ski slope or
trail when your ability to do so is impaired by the consumption of
alcohol or any drug."
According to FindLaw.com, all states measure intoxication based
on a blood alcohol concentration above a set limit, now 0.08 in all
states. This means if you have blood alcohol content at or above
0.08, you are intoxicated in the eyes of the law, and no additional
proof of driving impairment is necessary.
"Many people mistakenly believe that a DUI is a traffic
violation," says John Callahan of Norris & Callahan, a Chicago-based
criminal defense law firm. "The reality is a DUI is a criminal
offense that carries heavy consequences, including jail time."
If you regularly drink and drive, the odds of being pulled over
for a DUI are just a matter of when. According to Mothers Against
Drunk Driving, about two-thirds of DUIs involve a first-time
offender. First-time offenders typically have driven drunk about 87
times before being caught.
Callahan reminds drivers that a police officer can ask you to
pull over for any traffic violation -- from a burned-out brake light
to texting while driving, which is illegal in a growing number of
states. If an officer suspects that you're under the influence, he
or she can begin the investigation process, which includes
observation, sobriety tests and blood alcohol measurement.
"Police officers are especially on the alert for underage
drinkers who attend schools in college towns, and during large
college events such as a college basketball game, where many
students may be drinking on- and off-campus," Callahan adds. "Many
states have zero-tolerance laws toward drivers under 21 who are
arrested for drinking and driving. These laws are much stricter,
where a DUI arrest can be made if a driver, under the legal age to
drink, has even a trace of alcohol in their system.
"Beyond the risk of injuring another driver or even the
passengers in your car, I strongly urge drivers, including
snowmobilers, to never drink and drive," Callahan says. "It's not
worth the risk. If you do choose to imbibe and you are charged with
a DUI, take my advice and get a lawyer who specializes in DUIs and
is located in the state you've been charged. Especially if you've
been convicted of a previous DUI offense, as the consequences are
much more severe."