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When is Someone Too Drunk to Drive?

Drunk driving is dangerous. It is that simple, and there is simply no other way to put it. Yet, each year, countless people make the mistake of getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink, and too often innocent victims are forced to pay the price of their dangerous mistakes.

When is someone too drunk to drive? Under Colorado law, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers over the age of 21 is 0.08 percent (although you can be arrested for “driving while ability impaired” with a BAC over 0.05 percent). However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers can begin to experience impairment at a BAC of just 0.04 percent, and different individuals can reach this level of intoxication after having very different amounts to drink.

When Does Alcohol Consumption Begin to Affect Driving Ability?

Alcohol’s effect on a person’s driving ability varies depending upon his or her sex, weight, body composition and other factors. For example, according to the NHTSA:

  • A 180-pound male can reach an impaired state at 0.04 percent BAC after two drinks, while a 120-pound female can reach a 0.04 percent BAC after just one drink.
  • It can take up to five drinks before a 240-pound will reach Colorado’s DUI limit of 0.08 percent; however, a 180-pound female can reach this limit after just one drink.
  • While a 240-pound male can potentially have up to two drinks without experiencing impairing effects, a 100-pound female could be too intoxicated to drive after a single drink.

What if the Driver Who Hit Me Didn’t Get a DUI?

While drunk drivers who cause auto accidents will often get ticketed for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI), this is not universally the case. There can be any of a number of reasons why; and, if the driver who hit you was not ticketed (or did not get convicted at trial), you can still seek financial compensation for your injury-related losses. This is because:

  • The legal standards for civil liability and criminal culpability are different. In order to secure a conviction for DUI, state prosecutors must prove a driver’s guilt, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” or beyond 99 percent. However, in order to secure financial compensation for personal injuries, it is only necessary to prove the driver’s negligence, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” or 51 percent.
  • There may be evidence that the police didn’t collect. The police can only do so much when they respond to the scene of an accident. However, a forensic investigation may reveal additional evidence that supports a claim for financial compensation.
  • You may have other grounds to seek financial compensation. Even if there is no evidence to prove that the driver who hit you was drunk, there may be evidence to prove other grounds for liability. Was the driver distracted? Was he or she speeding or following too closely? Did he or she run a red light or stop sign? These are all mistakes that can support liability regardless of a driver’s level of alcohol impairment.

Speak With a Denver Auto Accident Attorney for Free

If you were injured in an accident involving a drunk driver and would like more information about your legal rights, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with a Denver accident attorney at Levine Law, please call 303-333-8000 or request an appointment online today.

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