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What’s a DUI? A Simple Guide on Everything You Need to Know

In 2016, over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. That may sound alarming, but that’s only 1 percent of the people who have reported driving after having too much alcohol.

Knowing the frequency with which DUI occurs is important, but there’s another critical question: What’s a DUI? It’s hard to talk about ways to prevent it unless everyone is on the same page about the definition.

Read on for information that will help you answer the question, “What is a DUI?”

What’s a DUI? The Legal Definition

Legally speaking, someone is too drunk to drive when they reach a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. That’s the standard set by all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Some states refer to this offense as Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI, while other states refer to it as Driving Under the Influence, or DUI. There may be slight differences between jurisdictions, but the answer is essentially the same regardless of if someone is asking “What is DWI?” or “What is DUI?”

There are a couple of ways to measure blood alcohol content or BAC. The first is through a Breathalyzer device that a driver breathes into after getting pulled over.

The amount of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream is also measured by more invasive blood draw or urine tests. If an officer suspects a driver is drunk, they’ll typically ask them to perform field sobriety tests like walking in a straight line and standing on one leg.

It’s less common but possible for someone to get arrested for DUI or DWI without having a BAC of at least 0.08. If a police officer observes that a subject is slurring their words and can’t pass the field sobriety tests, they may arrest them even if the breath test shows a reading that’s below the legal limit.

Who Gets DUIs?

Men are more likely to get arrested for DWIs and DUIs. In 2018, men were responsible for an estimated 81 percent of drunk driving episodes, according to numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Young adults in their late teens and early 20s are also more likely to get involved in a car accident involving alcohol. A closer look at alcohol-related fatal car crashes in 2013 provides a good illustration of this. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1 in 3 drunk drivers in those car crashes was between ages 21 and 24.

What’s a DWI mean for the person charged? They’re looking at fines and possible jail time, as well as the likely suspension of their driver’s license.

In some cases, those consequences prompt the driver to leave alcohol behind and commit to sober living. In other cases, they keep drinking and driving and cause one or more car accidents.

How to Drive Safely

Being able to answer the question, “What’s a DUI?” is helpful, but drunk driving is by no means the only dangerous habit you’ll find on roadways.

You can be 100 percent sober and still do thoughtless things like text while driving. Driving while sleepy is another common mistake.

Check out our blog for more tips on how to be a safe driver.