Drunk drivers ramp up the risk associated with many auto accidents. While New York aims to decrease drunk driving risk with its DWAI program, that program does not eliminate the risk of drunk driving accidents in the state, including in Albany.
New York Drunk Driving Stats
Each year, New York experiences an estimated 300 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, which make up an average of 32 percent of driving fatalities across the state. Around 70 percent of those drivers have a BAC of 0.15 or higher. The rate of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, including New York drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher, hovers higher than it does elsewhere in the nation. New York residents also suffer an average of 6,000 injuries per year in alcohol-related crashes.
Albany, in particular, has an estimated 2.38 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents each year. It ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in New York for DUI accidents.
Albany Drunk Driving Challenges
Albany faces challenges that may contribute to its high rate of drunk driving accidents.
1. Albany has more urban sprawl than other nearby cities.
Despite its position as the capital of New York, Albany does not have the same tightly-packed city center found in other regional cities, like New York City. Albany’s larger urban sprawl makes it more difficult to use public transportation to access many of its areas. A larger city also means that people need to drive longer to get home or reach another destination, which can increase the risk of drunk driving accidents for both drivers who have spent time at local bars and restaurants and drivers who simply need to get home.
2. Albany has many popular drinking locations in its thriving downtown area.
From McGeary’s pub to the Hollow Bar and Kitchen, Albany offers a selection of bars and restaurants throughout the thriving local area that makes it a popular destination for many people looking for ways to enjoy the area’s nightlife. While this benefits Albany residents who want to enjoy a night out, it also means more opportunities for Albany residents to drink and drive.
3. Albany’s residents have a relatively young median age.
The median age for Albany residents hovers around 30.9 years. 21 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds have the highest likelihood of drinking and driving. Since many of Albany’s residents fall within this age range, drunk driving accident risk may increase.
New York’s DWAI Laws
Because of the state’s overall awareness of drunk driving accident risk, New York has some of the toughest driving while intoxicated rules on the books. In addition to standard DUI laws, which impose penalties when drivers have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, New York also has DWAI laws that offer penalties for drivers who choose to get behind the wheel at a lower level of intoxication.
DWAI, which stands for driving while ability impaired, impacts drivers who choose to drive while drunk, while under the influence of drugs, or both. Unlike traditional DUI laws, DWAI penalties, which may include a fine of $300 to $500 and up to 90-day license suspension for a first offense, can occur for drivers who have a BAC of greater than 0.05, but less than 0.07 percent. Drivers may also face fines and penalties if they show obvious evidence of intoxication, even if they do not necessarily have a high BAC.
New York’s DWAI laws acknowledge the impact that drinking can have on the individual’s ability to drive safely, even if the individual has not consumed enough alcohol to reach a 0.08 limit. Even a single drink, for example, can impact a driver’s concentration, making it difficult for the driver to keep focusing on the road. Drinking can also impair vision, which may make it difficult for drivers to see the road around them and ultimately reach their destinations safely.
Proposed legislation in New York aims to drop the legal limit to 0.05 completely, leaving drivers who have a BAC of 0.05 or higher facing a DUI. Legislation in Michigan and Delaware also poses to address drunk driving risks and decrease the legal limits in those states.
The Challenges Associated With Drinking and Driving
Albany drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired may face a variety of challenges to their ability to navigate safely. Unfortunately, a relatively low percentage of drunk drivers actually get caught. All too often, those drivers face criminal charges after causing a serious accident. Drinking and driving can:
Interfere With Reaction Times
On the road, reaction time can prove critical. Drivers need to react quickly whether the car in front stops or makes a turn or because a child darts out into the street. Unfortunately, drunk drivers may struggle to maintain reaction times, which can lead to a considerably increased risk of an accident. Drunk drivers may also react late to stimuli on the road, which can increase the likelihood that another driver will cause an accident because they can’t anticipate the drunk driver’s actions.
Often, reaction time on the road can make all the difference. Unfortunately, intoxicated drivers often react too late to avoid an accident. Worse, they may react late enough to cause a serious hazard to other drivers, causing an accident due to their inactions, instead of preventing one.
Decrease Decision-Making Skills
Decision-making skills and rational reasoning often go out the window when a driver consumes excessive amounts of alcohol. Even a single drink can start to interfere with an individual’s judgment. As a result, drunk drivers often make reckless decisions on the road, including speeding, ignoring traffic signals, and swerving in and out of traffic.
They may also drive more aggressively, including deliberately threatening other drivers, tailgating, or excessively honking their horns, which may raise the odds of a road rage incident or increase the likelihood that the driver will cause a severe accident. Aggressive driving can increase stress and tension in other drivers, raising the odds that they will cause an accident. Many aggressive driving actions also decrease the response time needed in the event of a potential accident. Drunk drivers may not have the capacity to react in time.
Some drivers, however, go to the opposite extreme. Because they know drunk driving can cause reckless behaviors, they may have an increased likelihood of driving too slowly or behaving too cautiously, since they want to avoid getting into an accident or getting pulled over. Unfortunately, these behaviors can also make it difficult to predict what they will do next on the road. Also, with attention on not getting caught, drivers may have trouble keeping up with what happens around them.
Cause Visual Challenges
At high levels of intoxication, many people have a hard time seeing clearly. Drinking may lead to blurred vision or slowed eye movement, which can make it very difficult to track visual stimuli. This inability to track visual stimuli can, in turn, make it hard to see what happens on the road. Some drivers also experience tunnel vision, which makes it difficult for them to focus on anything but the road directly in front of them. Inability to see the road can make it difficult for drivers to respond to anything else that happens around them.
Interfere With Coordination
Driving requires a great deal of coordination. Not only must drivers safely propel their cars forward, but also they must safely accelerate, brake, steer, and operate any other settings within the vehicle, all without losing focus on the road. Young drivers, in particular, may struggle to maintain concentration and coordination between all these different elements while intoxicated. As a result, a drunk driver may steer too hard into a curve or brake in a choppy, sharp manner.
What to Do After an Albany Drunk Driving Accident
Did you get into an accident with an Albany drunk driver? Whether the driver who caused your accident had a few drinks at home before setting out or had visited a local bar, like 288 Wine and Tap or Post on Lark, the steps you take immediately after the accident can go a long way toward protecting you.
1. Report the accident.
Albany drunk drivers do not want you to report the accident, especially with New York’s harsh penalties for drunk drivers. Even a DWAI charge can lead to a 90-day license suspension, which may prove incredibly difficult to manage for many Albany residents who rely on their cars to get to work or school.
Minors, in particular, may not want to admit to drinking and driving, and so may try to talk you into letting them go. Because of New York’s no-fault law, you may assume that you can get by without reporting the accident to the police or the other driver’s insurance company, since your insurance will cover the initial costs associated with minor injuries.
Failure to report even a minor accident, however, can have a wide range of consequences. First, a driver who leaves the scene of the accident still intoxicated may go on to cause additional damage to other people. Second, if you fail to report an accident, you may have a hard time seeking compensation for damage to your vehicle or your injuries, if you have more serious injuries than initially suspected and need to file for compensation through the other driver’s insurance. Always contact the police and report drunk driving accidents.
When the officer arrives, let the officer know that you suspect the other driver of driving while intoxicated. Make particular note of any obvious behaviors that could have indicated intoxication, especially actions that took place before the accident itself.
You might, for example, have noticed:
- The driver behaving erratically.
- The driver driving too slowly.
- The driver ignoring traffic laws.
Keep in mind that multiple conditions, including blood sugar problems and head injuries, can impact people much the same way as intoxication. The responding officer will need to decide how to evaluate the other driver’s sobriety and what consequences that driver may face.
2. Have a doctor evaluate your injuries.
Do not simply assume that because you feel fine at the scene of the accident, you probably have relatively minor injuries, if you suffered injuries at all. In many cases, drivers have walked away from the scene of accidents thinking they had avoided injury, only to discover that they actually suffered much more severe injuries than they initially thought. In some cases, ignoring the potential for injuries can cause you to make those injuries much worse, since you have not received medical treatment and may have continued to use your body normally. In others, a lack of medical treatment may make it hard to prove exactly when a specific accident occurred, which can make it more difficult to receive compensation for your injuries.
Go to the doctor, whether you visit an urgent care facility or go to the emergency room at the hospital, after your accident. Let the doctor evaluate your injuries and tell you what treatment you need. Once your doctor issues instructions, follow all steps recommended by your doctor to help increase your odds of making a full recovery and to make it easier for you to recover maximum compensation.
3. Get in touch with an experienced Albany drunk driving lawyer.
Does the other driver’s drunk driving conviction change the amount of compensation that you can receive for serious injuries sustained in a car accident? What should your PIP insurance cover after a drunk driving accident? What about compensation for your other losses? A drunk driving accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and pursue compensation after a serious drunk driving accident. Do not wait to get in touch with a lawyer. Instead, contact a lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.
Did you suffer serious injuries in an Albany drunk driving accident? You may need legal help to pursue compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries. Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.