Labor Day falls on September 1st this year, and many Coloradoans will be using the three-day weekend for their end-of-summer celebrations. For some, that means enjoying drinks with friends at the bar, lake, or a backyard cookout. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as you’re not planning on driving yourself home afterwards. Police in cities and counties across the country will be stepping up DUI enforcement, and even if you only have a couple drinks and feel fine to drive, you’re risking a steep fine and a criminal record when you choose to get behind the wheel.
As a long weekend that’s often interpreted as the last opportunity to enjoy the summer weather, Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest holidays of the year to be on the road. Crash records from 2012 show that 147 Americans died in a drunk driving accident over Labor Day weekend that year, accounting for more than a third of all the weekend’s traffic fatalities. Based on the holiday’s history, it’s no real surprise that law enforcement officials increase their efforts to catch drunk drivers every Labor Day.
Don’t Risk Driving While Buzzed
You might think that this reminder about increased law enforcement over the upcoming holiday weekend doesn’t affect you because you would never drive drunk. But have you ever driven after having two or three drinks and feeling slightly buzzed? If so, you might be surprised to learn that your blood alcohol level may have been at or above .08, and you could have been charged with a DUI if pulled over.
Most people significantly underestimate how much alcohol affects them, or think that they have a good sense of exactly how much they can drink and still be able to drive. You may stick to the one-drink-per-hour rule, which suggests that you can stay under the legal limit as long as you don’t drink more than one standard drink per hour (a 12 oz. beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or a 1.5 oz. shot of liquor).
However, the problem with this rule of thumb is that the alcohol content in those so-called “standard drinks” can vary wildly. For example, a Bud Light has 4.2% alcohol content, while some craft IPAs have an alcohol content of 8% or higher, meaning that the latter is much more potent at the same volume as the former. And if someone else is making mixed drinks for you, it can be hard to tell how much liquor you’re really consuming in each drink.
If you attempt to decide whether you can drive based on how you’re feeling, this can also be problematic. Unfortunately, a recent analysis of traffic data from 1994 to 2011 found that even a seemingly insignificant BAC of .01 (about 6 oz. of beer for the average adult man) significantly increases a driver’s chances of causing an accident. Even if you feel fine, you may be impaired to the point that you risk being in an accident or getting pulled over after making a driving error.
The best way to avoid getting ticketed for a DUI or DWAI (Driving with Ability Impaired, which requires a BAC of just .05) is to find a designated driver or an alternative way home if you plan to drink over Labor Day weekend. If you do enjoy just one or two beers, drive, and get charged with a DUI, there are some defenses you may be able to use (a number of factors could affect the breath test, such as using mouthwash or taking medications that led to quicker intoxication, for example), but it’s better to avoid facing the charge in the first place.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.