By Attorney Xenophon Peters, Esq., Partner, Peters and Associates, LLP
Fourth of July celebrations are a capstone of summer, especially here in Las Vegas. Pool parties, barbecues, day clubs, nightclubs and more—the options for a great time are limitless. Unfortunately, it’s also a dangerous weekend to be on the road.
Auto fatalities peak during the summer and on big holidays like the Fourth, as do the number of impaired drivers. People tend to begin drinking early and stop drinking late, and they often have multiple places to be throughout the weekend. Adding an influx of tourists and the hot desert sun to the mix doesn’t help, either.
Keep yourself and others safe this weekend by following this guide.
Find or hire a ride
If you’re partaking in the festivities and having a few drinks while doing so, you need to be responsible about it. The golden rule is always to avoid drinking and find a sober driver when you need a ride.
Use a cab, a rideshare or public transportation, or call a friend/family member who is sober. It’s best to make these plans in advance, before you even start drinking, and charge your phone fully before going out in case there are any unexpected changes.
You may be sober, but that doesn’t mean others are
You’re still at risk while on the road with other people who aren’t so responsible. It’s important to remain focused, even in dense traffic, and to avoid any distractions. Impaired drivers are often erratic and will make sudden, unpredictable moves, so practice your defensive driving skills and stay extremely alert.
Common indicators of impaired driving include weaving between lanes, difficulty maintaining a steady position within the lane, accelerating/braking suddenly, unsafe lane changes, tailgating, driving without headlights and failing to signal properly. If you see someone who seems to be driving under the influence, keep a healthy distance from them and if/when it’s safe for you to do so, pull over and call 911.
Alternately, if you’re in an accident and suspect the other driver has been drinking, get back in your car and call 911. If possible, take pictures and video at the scene, including both cars, damages and the other driver’s behavior if they’re showing signs of impairment. If it’s not possible or safe for you to do this, simply wait in your car until the police arrive.
If you come across a police checkpoint, slow down and obey the officer’s directives. Be especially aware while approaching a checkpoint, because other drivers may panic and act unpredictably, especially if they’re concerned they may be impaired.
What are the blood alcohol content limits?
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08 for drivers 21 or over. For many adults, limiting themselves to one drink an hour will keep them within a safe BAC range.
For example, a 160-pound man who has one drink over the course of one hour will have an estimated BAC of .02. However, BAC levels compound when drinking more within a shorter time period—if he has two drinks in one hour, his estimated BAC would be .05 and three drinks would put him at .07.
Further, BAC can be impacted by different variables such as gender and weight. Women tend to weigh less than men and have more body fat, which can cause higher BAC levels when drinking the same amount.
It’s important to realize this: Even if your BAC is below .08, you can still be arrested with a DUI if you seem impaired.
Consider the weather
Drinking during a hot day, especially outdoors and in the sun, can cause dehydration and make you feel like you’ve had more to drink than you have. Even if you’re sticking to one drink an hour, be sure to have a full, eight-ounce glass of water each hour as well.
You may think you’re fine to drive, but dehydration can sneak up quickly on anyone in the desert.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.