There's a 'Grand Misconception' About Drinking and Driving

Why is it legal to drink anything before driving, wonders Danny Cevallos
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2021 7:01 AM CST
The Problem With Our DUI Laws
A photo of Tina Tintor, 23, and her dog is placed at a makeshift memorial site to honor them at South Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Parkway, on Thursday in Las Vegas.   (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Henry Ruggs was allegedly driving 127mph, with at least twice the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration, before rear-ending a vehicle carrying a 23-year-old woman and her dog in Las Vegas on Tuesday, killing both. The former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver is charged with felony DUI resulting in death, but as MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos writes for NBC News, the alleged crime easily fits the definition of second-degree murder, requiring "malice" or an "abandoned and malignant heart." Ruggs doesn't have to worry about a murder charge, though, because the drunk-driving laws in this country are "broken," argues Cevallos.

It starts with the fact that drinking and driving isn't illegal under state laws "unless or until the driver is impaired and incapable of safe driving." Generally, this means a driver has 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 millileters of blood or per 210 liters of breath, Cevallos writes. But this presents an ambiguous limit for regular citizens who don't have access to measuring equipment. "So everyone who has a couple of margaritas and drives is guessing." But prosecutors don't actually need to have evidence of blood alcohol concentration to secure a conviction, Cevallos notes. In Nevada, "a driver can get a DUI just based on how badly the arresting officer thinks the driver looks, smells and stumbles."

"All of this nonsense has contributed to a grand public misconception, one Ruggs may have shared: that a driver can have 'a couple' and then drive home," Cevallos writes. "This is true—until it horribly, tragically isn't." So "why not just have zero tolerance?" He refers to the billion-dollar alcohol industry and suggests it is up to Americans to change their attitudes. At a rural watering hole on a night like tonight, patrons will "finish up their last drink and tell themselves, 'I'm fine to drive,'" he writes. And "until we find a way to change [that concept], thousands and thousands of people will continue to die." Read the full piece here. (More drunk driving stories.)

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