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A signboard attempts to discourage drivers from drunk driving in Karnataka, India.

Driving under the influence of alcohol (driving while intoxicated, drunk driving, operating under the influence, drinking and driving, drink-driving, impaired driving) or other drugs, is the act of operating a vehicle (including bicycle, boat, airplane, wheelchair, or tractor) after consuming alcohol or other drugs. It is a criminal offense in most countries.


Driving under the influence is a serious health hazard. In the United States, for example, alcohol is estimated to play a role in 39 percent of vehicle-related deaths are caused for the cost of $51 billion annually. More recently it has been reported that alcohol contributes to nearly 30 percent of all Canadian traffic fatalities and 44 percent of traffic fatalities in the United States.

In most countries, anyone who is convicted of injuring or killing someone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be heavily fined, as in Francemarker, in addition to being given a lengthy prison sentence. Many states in the U.S. have adopted truth in sentencing laws that enforce strict guidelines on sentencing. For example, if a defendant is sentenced to ten years, he or she will be in prison for that entire time. This is different from past practice where prison time was reduced or suspended after sentencing had been issued.

The specific criminal offense may be called, depending on the jurisdiction, driving under intense influence,(DUII) driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI), driving under the influence [of alcohol or other drugs] (DUI), driving under the combined influence of alcohol and/or other drugs, driving under the influence per se or drunk in charge [of a vehicle]. Many of such laws apply also to boating, piloting aircraft, riding a horse or conducting a horse-drawn vehicle, or cycling.

Historically, guilt was established by observed driving symptoms, such as weaving; administering field sobriety tests, such as a walking a straight line heel-to-toe or standing on one leg for 30 seconds; and the arresting officer's subjective opinion of impairment. The US Department of Transportation explains the Field Sobriety Test as, "a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest." Starting with the introduction in Norway in 1936 of the world’s first per se law which made it an offense to drive with more than a specified amount of alcohol in the body, objective chemical tests have gradually supplemented the earlier purely judgmental ones. Limits for chemical tests are specific for blood alcohol concentration or concentration of alcohol in breath.

With the advent of a scientific test for blood alcohol content (BAC), enforcement regimes moved to pinning culpability for the offense to strict liability based on driving while having more than a prescribed amount of blood alcohol, although this does not preclude the simultaneous existence of the older subjective tests. BAC is most conveniently measured as a simple percent of alcohol in the blood by weight. It does not depend on any units of measurement. In Europe it is usually expressed as milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. However, 100 milliliters of blood weighs essentially the same as 100 milliliters of water, which weighs precisely 100 grams. Thus, for all practical purposes, this is the same as the simple dimensionless BAC measured as a percent. Since 2002 it has been illegal in all 50 US states to drive with a BAC that is 0.08% or higher.

The validity of the testing equipment/methods and mathematical relationships for the measurement of breath and blood alcohol have been criticized.

Driving while consuming alcohol may be illegal within a jurisdiction. In some it is illegal for an open container of an alcoholic beverage to be in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle or in some specific area of that compartment.

The German model serves to reduce the number of accidents by identifying unfit drivers and removing them from traffic until their fitness to drive has been established again. The Medical Psychological Assessment (MPA) works for a prognosis of the fitness for drive in future, has an interdisciplinary basic approach and offers the chance of individual rehabilitation to the offender.

George Smith, a London taxi driver, was the first person to be convicted of drunk driving, on 10 September 1897. He was fined 20 shillings.


A person's blood alcohol content is not the only thing that can determine a persons sobriety. A driver having a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading somewhat lower than 0.08 %, but also showed signs of impairment can be charged with a DUI. The “legal limit” is simply the number above which a driver is automatically guilty of driving under the influence (or some related statute) without any other evidence. However, many states also allow for DUI charges and conviction when a driver has a slightly lower BAC reading but also fails field sobriety tests, drives erratically, or otherwise shows signs of being impaired.

There are many ways that a person could give themselves the illusion that they are more sober. Drinking coffee increases awareness; therefore, the drinker believes that they are more sober. In reality, the person is still impaired for the purposes of driving, as their coordination, reaction time, etc. are still affected by the alcohol. Eating various dehydrated and salty products such as crackers, chips and pretzels may settle the stomach allowing the consumer to feel more sober when, in reality, they are simply keeping their blood sugars from crashing, as drinking without the consumption of food would.There is no sentence for drink driving.

Drunk driving law by country

The laws relating to drunk driving vary between countries and varying blood alcohol content is allowed before a conviction is made.

See also


  1. Appel, Jacob. "Must Physicians Report Impaired Driving? Rethinking a Duty on a Collision Course with Itself" Journal of Clinical Ethics Volume 20 Number 2
  2. Durocher, Ron. "Drunk Driving Ranks First" Toronto Star 21 Jun 2007
  3. SFST:Training Management System.
  4. Müller & Laub 2006. The Medical Psychological Assessment: An Opportunity for the Individual, Safety for the General Public
  5. [1]

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