Car accidents are extremely traumatic for everyone involved. They can be even worse if the accident was caused by a drunk driver. The restrictions on drinking and driving are embedded in us from a young age – in school, driver’s education, billboards, commercials, and so on. However, drunk driving is still extremely common across the United States.
In any given year, there are roughly 1.5 people arrested for driving under the influence. This means that one out of every 121 drivers gets arrested for drunk driving.
Drunk driving accidents happen every day – and many cause serious injuries (or death). According to data from the NHTSA, about 32 people die every day in the United States in drunk driving car accidents. If you’ve been injured in a crash involving an impaired driver, the law is very much on your side.
In this post, we want to explain what to do after an accident – and what your options for legal recourse may look like. Let’s get into it.
How Alcohol Consumption Impacts Driving Abilities
Alcohol intoxication can lead to drunk driving accidents for many reasons. Most notably, it diminishes the driver’s sensory abilities – including reaction times, judgment, and vision.
For instance, alcohol intoxication may cause a split-second delay in reacting to an emergency stop situation, which may cause the driver to collide with another vehicle. Or, an intoxicated driver may fail to properly gauge speed and distance from an oncoming vehicle while stopped at an intersection – resulting in a t-bone collision.
The bottom line is alcohol has a serious impact on a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. Intoxication behind the wheel puts both the driver and those around them at risk of drunk driving accidents.
The Laws for Drunk Driving in Illinois
Laws for drunk driving in Illinois are very strict. It is illegal to be in “actual physical control” of a vehicle if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over .08 percent. In other words, the driver may be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence).
The criminal penalties for a DUI are more severe if:
- The driver has a BAC of .16% or greater.
- There is a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 16.
- The driver has a prior DUI conviction(s).
The legal penalties get progressively more severe based on the number of DUI convictions. Here is an overview:
1st Drunk Driving Offense
- Maximum 364 days in jail.
- 100 hours of community service (if BAC was above .16%).
- Maximum fine of $2,500.
- Minimum fine of $500 (if BAC was .16% or more).
- Minimum fine of $1000 (if the passenger was under 16).
- License revoked for 1 year (2 years if under 21).
2nd Drunk Driving Offense
- 5 to 364 days in jail (or 240 hours of community service).
- Minimum of 2 days in jail (if BAC was over .16%).
- 10 days to 7 years in jail or 480 hours of community service (if the passenger was under 16 years old).
- Maximum fine of $2,500.
- Minimum fine of $1,250 (if BAC was over .16%).
- Fine of $2,500 to $25,000 (if the passenger was under 16 years old).
- License revoked for 5 years.
3rd Drunk Driving Offense
- 10 days to 7 years in jail or 480 hours of community service.
- Minimum of 90 days in jail (if BAC was over .16%).
- Maximum fine of $25,000.
- Minimum fine of $2,500 (if BAC was over .16%).
- Minimum fine of $25,000 if the passenger was under 16 years old.
If a drunk driver causes an accident, they will likely be subjected to a civil case in addition to the criminal offenses and punishments listed above.
Most Common Types of Drunk Driving Accidents
The most common characteristics of drunk drivers on the road include speeding, crossing the centerline, and driving off the road. Any of these reckless driving maneuvers can lead to serious accidents. Some of the most common ones we’ve seen include:
Sideswipe Drunk Driving Accidents
Sideswipe accidents occur when a vehicle brushes up against the side of another vehicle. In some cases, this may only result in slight property damage. In more extreme cases, sideswipes can result in the victim’s vehicle being pushed off the road or into another vehicle.
This is one of the most common car accidents from drunk driving – and typically occurs when an intoxicated driver swerves over the center line.
Head-On Drunk Driving Accidents
Head-on car accidents from drunk driving tend to be the most severe. This is because the velocity and speed of both vehicles are combined. For instance, two vehicles each driving at 30mph colliding head-on would equal a 60mph crash.
Due to the nature of head-on collisions, these drunk driving accidents can easily result in serious injuries – or potentially death.
Rear-End Drunk Driving Accidents
Rear-end car accidents occur when a vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind. In car accidents from drunk driving, this commonly happens when the intoxicated driver’s reaction times do not allow them to stop in time – or they are speeding and cannot bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid a collision.
T-Bone Drunk Driving Accidents
To echo a previous example, t-bone accidents are when the front or back of a vehicle strikes the side of another vehicle. These accidents can happen if a driver runs a red light, stop sign, or improperly pulls out at an intersection.
T-bone drunk driving accidents are a common result of delayed reaction times as well as failure to properly gauge distance and speed.
Most Common Injuries from Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving accidents – like most other types of car accidents – can happen in the blink of an eye and lead to serious injuries. Upon impact, it’s common for the victim’s body to contort unnaturally and strike an interior component of the vehicle. This includes the dashboard, headrest, door, steering wheel, and so on.
The most common types of injuries we see from drunk driving accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Bone breaks and fractures
- Soft tissue injuries
- Chest injuries
- Internal injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident and are suffering from an injury, you deserve justice. Talk to a professional car accident attorney to begin the process of holding the at-fault party liable for your medical bills, financial losses, and pain and suffering.
What to Do Immediately After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver
The steps to take immediately after a car accident are not always crystal clear – you may be in shock. It’s important to realize that the initial moves you make are crucial in a personal injury case. Here is what you need to do:
For starters, take a deep breath. Staying calm is very important to properly assess the accident. Do not leave the scene unless there is an immediate risk to your safety. Check yourself and the passenger to see the initial severity of any injuries, then call 911.
If you are not severely injured, try to assist any other drivers or passengers involved in the accident.
The photos you take at the scene will be critical pieces of evidence down the road. Take as many as you can to establish the situation and the conditions. This includes documenting:
- The road conditions
- Traffic signs/lights
- Any obstructions
- Damage to your vehicle
- The at-fault party’s vehicle (and license plate number)
- Any injuries sustained by you or other passengers
The more pictures you take, the better. Fortunately, this is easier than ever – now that everyone has a powerful camera phone in their pockets.
Gather Contact Information
This will be done by the police, but you must do it as well. In addition to the at-fault party, try and gather as many witnesses as possible. Witness statements will be very important later on in a personal injury case.
Now, a drunk driver may try to flee the scene after an accident. Some believe this is a better alternative to being charged with a DUI. If this happens, witness accounts will be even more important.
Get in Touch with a Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident, you have plenty of options – regardless of what the situation looks like. The courts take car accidents from drunk driving very seriously and almost always side with the victims.
The first step to seeking justice is getting in touch with a personal injury attorney who has experience with drunk driving accidents. They will work closely with you to learn the details of the accident and educate you on your options. Most offer free consultations to do this.
For any questions or concerns about drunk driving laws in Illinois and car accidents, reach out to Midwest Injury Lawyers today. Call 312-786-5881, send an email to email@example.com, or fill out an online form.