Sobering facts about holiday DUIs

Published 3:21 pm Monday, November 26, 2018

One of the worst ways to celebrate the holidays is sitting in a jail cell after being arrested for DUI or worse. However, many Georgians will make poor drinking and driving choices between now and early January. Even one drink is too many when operating a motor vehicle.  Additionally, taking drugs, prescription or not, can impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  

Law enforcement officers increase their presence on the roads in order to make the holidays as safe as possible.

With the above in mind, here are five sobering facts every driver should know during the holiday season and beyond:

4All drivers need to be aware of DUI laws. Just because you are sober does not mean you cannot be arrested for DUI. Manner of speech, tiredness, red eyes, difficulty finding insurance paperwork, poor coordination and nervousness are just some of the reasons a DUI investigation can begin.  If a driver is asked by an officer to get out of the vehicle, he or she needs to comply. However, it is always best to politely decline performing any field sobriety tests.  

These tests include, but are not limited to, the walk and turn, one leg stand, HGN test (follow the officer’s pen light with your eyes), and the small portable alcosensor used at the scene (not to be confused with the Intoxilizer 9000 that is sometimes used at the police station after the driver has been arrested).  You can find a complete column about what to do and not do when being investigated for DUI under “articles” at

4There’s a spike in DUIs over the holidays. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over one-third of the total motor vehicle traffic deaths each year are attributed to impaired driving. While this number is very general, the chances of a drunken driving fatality spikes around the holidays. This is primarily due to the overall increase in alcohol consumption from November to early January each year.

4More impaired drivers hit the road at night. December has the least amount of daylight hours than any month on the calendar. Many holiday parties end well after the sun has set at 6 p.m.  Because the number of intoxicated drivers increases after sunset, the danger of a deadly DUI increases as well.

According to NHTSA, drivers involved in fatal crashes generally have rates of impairment 2.5 times higher at night than during the day. While driving at night should not be avoided altogether, driving during the day decreases the chances of encountering a severely intoxicated driver. 

Additionally, patrol officers are more active at night as they seek to make our roads safer.  The chances of being stopped or encountering a roadblock increases as well.  

4 There will be plenty of roadblocks. During the holidays, law enforcement agencies put together roadblocks in areas where there have been a high level of prior DUI arrests.   When the driver sees a roadblock ahead, he or she needs to proceed ahead. Turning around is the worst decision to make other than drinking and driving in the first place. When driving through these checkpoints, a driver may be stopped without any reasonable, articulable suspicion that the driver is impaired.  

However, if the driver is briefly detained for further investigation of a possible DUI, the officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that the driver is impaired or that another crime is being committed (ex. illegal possession of a controlled substance). A search of the vehicle can only be done when the driver gives consent or when the officer has a higher level of belief (probable cause) that a crime is being committed.

4The vast majority of drivers arrested between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. did not wake up and take a drink that morning. They drank heavily into the night and got little sleep.  This sometimes happens at late night parties or when someone is alone drinking throughout the holiday season. “Sleeping it off” does not work. While someone may not feel “drunk” in the morning as he or she drives home, to get breakfast or to work, their blood alcohol content may be over 0.08 percent.  

Being responsible by refusing to drink or take drugs before driving is the only way to ensure that DUI convictions, highway deaths attributed to DUI, and the many consequences that follow do not happen. Keep this and the above facts in mind when you are behind the wheel this holiday season. 

Let’s make 2018 they year when DUI and DUI related deaths begin to significantly decrease in Georgia.