How to celebrate safely on the biggest bar night of the year

Most drunk driving accidents can be prevented by implementing simple and potentially life-saving safety measures

Handcuffs, a drink and keys sit together. (Copyright (c) 2020 Billion Photos/Shutterstock. No use without permission.)

What’s the most popular bar night of the year? If you guessed New Year’s Eve, you may be surprised to learn Thanksgiving Eve is among the busiest nights for local drinking establishments.

College students typically come home in droves, along with those who have moved away from their Detroit families. While meeting up with friends and relatives for a few drinks can be a great kickoff to a holiday weekend, driving home under the influence can be deadly.

Sobering statistics

Last year, 1,083 people died in traffic accidents on Michigan roadways, an increase of 10% from 2019, when car crashes took the lives of 985 people, according to crash statistics from the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center (*1). The surge in the death toll is especially shocking because traffic decreased by 18% in 2020, due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Furthermore, traffic deaths rose, despite a 22% decrease in the number of motor vehicle accidents, from 314,377 in 2019, to 245,432, in 2020. Therefore, while the total number of crashes decreased, the number of fatal crashes rose 12%, from 902 in 2019, to 1,010 in 2020.

What’s more, alcohol and drugs played a major role in those deaths. Approximately 30% of traffic fatalities in 2020 (326 deaths) involved alcohol, an increase of 11% from 2019, when 295 people died in alcohol-related crashes. In addition, drug-related traffic fatalities increased by 13%, from 237 deaths in 2019, to 267 in 2020.

In addition, fatal car accidents continued to rise in 2021, despite the fact that many workplaces and schools were operating remotely during the first half of the year. According to preliminary data from Michigan State Police, more people died in motor vehicle accidents in the first five months of 2021 than during the same time period in 2020 and 2019. What’s more, this deadly trend is expected to continue as people return to offices and classrooms.

Costly consequences

Not only can drunk driving cost your life, it can damage your driving record, as well as your finances. If arrested, you may have legal fees, along with hefty fines and other expenses. In addition, a drunk driving conviction typically results in significantly higher auto insurance premiums.

According to Michigan law (*2), it is a crime to drive a motor vehicle with a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more for those over the age of 21, or .02 for individuals under 21. Additionally, drivers with any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance and/or cocaine are subject to the same fines and penalties as drunk drivers, even if they show no signs of impairment.

For individuals who have a valid medical marijuana card, a law enforcement officer must show that the driver is impaired due to the marijuana.

Although sentences are determined by a judge, Michigan has the following penalty guidelines for individuals convicted of drunk driving:

First offense with BAC below .17:

  • Up to a $500 fine
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to 180 days driver’s license suspension
  • Six points on a driver’s license

First offense with BAC of .17 or higher:

  • Up to a $700 fine
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to one year driver’s license suspension
  • Six points on a driver’s license
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program (some judges may require this regardless of BAC level)

Refusal to take a breathalyzer test after being stopped by police:

  • First offense: an automatic one-year license suspension
  • Second offense within seven years: two-year driver’s license suspension

Sentencing may also include a restricted driver’s license and the use of an ignition interlock device for a period of time, determined by the court.

Celebrate safely

Celebrating with family and friends is an important part of the holiday season, and most festivities include alcohol. However, the good news is that most drunk driving accidents can be prevented by implementing some simple and potentially life-saving safety measures, such as:

  • Never get behind the wheel of a car under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Appoint a designated driver who will agree to stay sober for the entire night.
  • If a sober driver is unavailable, ask a parent or someone else to pick you up, or call a cab or ride-share service like Lyft or Uber.
  • Contact your local police or sheriff’s departments for information on free rides home from local bars and restaurants.
  • Stop others in your group from driving after consuming alcohol.
  • If you are hosting a gathering, persuade those who have been drinking to spend the night.

Put experienced car accident lawyers to work for you today

“While we wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend, even the most careful motorist can be hit by a drunk driver, and these accidents are especially heartbreaking because they are preventable,” says Mark Bernstein, of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm.

If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, attorneys can help. With vast legal knowledge and extensive resources, the legal team with Sam Bernstein is made up of skilled and compassionate lawyers who will fight to win the compensation their clients and your family deserve.

Car accident law is complicated, but finding the right car accident lawyer is simple.

Don’t let the legal clock run out. To get a case started today, fill out the brief form below, or call 1-800-2255-726 for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety and comfort of your home.