New Year’s Eve isn’t technically the worst holiday when it comes to fatalities stemming from drunk driving. It’s after midnight that you have to watch out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA According to a recent analysis conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, half the fatal crashes on New Year’s Day involve a driver who is legally drunk, with a blood-alcohol content of higher than 0.08 percent. What’s more, it’s estimated there are 30 more fatal crashes occur on that day.

A separate analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates the percentage of DUI-related crashes on that day is closer to 40 percent. Either way, the risk is significant, especially when you consider that on almost any other day of the year, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, some 300,000 trips are made with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

With many more people reveling in the New Year’s celebrations, our Fort Myers drunk driving accident lawyers know many will encounter great peril on the roadways.

MADD reports in 2012, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, nearly 2,000 people were killed in drunk driving. The organization reported New Year’s Day was the deadliest, with 140 drunk driving fatalities reported after midnight.

The day is also especially dangerous for pedestrians, with officials calculating an average of 22 pedestrian deaths annually on New Year’s Day. Given that Florida is already No. 1 when it comes to pedestrian injuries and fatalities nationally, this element is of special concern.

There are numerous ongoing counter-efforts that combine heightening awareness, penalties and alternatives for drunk driving deaths.

MADD, for example, has launched a campaign beginning Dec. 1 called “Tie One On for Safety,” which encourages people to tie a red ribbon on their vehicles to remind other motorists to plan ahead and designate a non-drinking driver. The name of the effort is a play on words: “Tie one on” typically refers to downing another drink.

Meanwhile, AAA is offering its annual “Tow to Go” statewide in Florida on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Although only available in certain regions in other states, the free ride is available statewide in Florida. On these nights, AAA will tow any driver, any vehicle home safely, so long as it’s within a 10-mile radius of the pickup point.

The program has been offered since 1988, and in that time has removed 22,000 would-be drunk drivers from the roads.

Of course, there are always a myriad of taxi and a growing number of ride-sharing services available. While riders will pay for these services, it’s worth noting the expense is far less than what one will incur for a drunk driving arrest – not to mention the decades in prison one could face if someone is seriously hurt or killed while you are behind the wheel.

In Florida, F.S. 316.193 outlines penalties for DUI arrest. A first-time conviction could result in a jail term of up to 6 months and a fine of up to $1,000. That’s assuming your blood-alcohol level was under 0.15 percent and there was no injury or property damage resulting from your actions and you don’t have a minor under age 18 in the car. In those cases, you could face a maximum 9 months in jail and a $2,000 fine for a first-time offense.

If you cause property damage while driving drunk, it’s a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. If you seriously injure someone, it’s a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. If you kill someone, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. And if you seriously injure or kill someone and flee the scene, then you’re facing a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The minimum you will serve for DUI manslaughter or hit-and-run is four years.

Calling a cab this New Year’s Eve is a far safer bet.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:
Holiday Safe Ride Program Availability for Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2014, Dec. 3, 2014, Press Release, AAA

More Blog Entries:
Crocker v. Morales-Santana – Truck Company Liability, Oct. 26, 2014, Fort Myers Accident Lawyer Blog