Driving under the influence poses serious threat to society. Every year, drunk driving causes several injuries and fatalities not only in Missouri but the entire United States.
This brings to mind the case of a St. Louis driver who just got a nine-year prison sentence for causing two accidents within a period of eight months, leading to one death and severe injury to a young girl. He was found to be driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol.
The main factors responsible for crashes such as the ones involving the St. Louis driver have been identified to be substance abuse and addiction. At The Hoffmann Law Firm, we feel that with April being the National Alcohol Awareness Month, it is relevant to discuss action that can be taken to reduce the amount of fatalities and injuries caused by driving under the influence in St. Louis.
Teenagers Driving Under the Influence
It has been observed that one effective means to curb the dangers of driving under influence is to raise awareness. Efforts to curtail driving under the influence should begin with teenagers. Why? Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) found in a survey that teenagers whose parents were against alcohol consumption by underage people were about 80 percent less likely to consume alcohol, compared to their peers whose parents do not hold similar view.
Teenagers who did not have their first drink before reaching 21 years of age have about an 80 percent less probability of becoming alcohol dependent in comparison to those who have their first drink before reaching the age of 15.
About 7,000 young people below the age of 16 take alcohol for the first time every day, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. This increases the risk of such young people becoming dependent on alcohol and putting their lives in grave danger on the road. Around 10,000 deaths are recorded annually as a result of auto crashes, with underage drinking responsible for about 4,700 deaths, according to MADD.
What If a Passenger Was Drinking?
Most other states have open container laws, but it is currently not illegal to carry an open container of alcohol in a car when you are a passenger in Missouri and you are 21 or older. If you do get pulled over, or are in an accident, the fact that your passenger might have an open glass of alcohol does not automatically mean that you are doing something illegal. Although 31 smaller municipalities, including St. Charles and Independence, have local open container laws.
It is, of course, illegal in Missouri, as in all states, to drink and drive. Like other states, to be considered legally intoxicated a driver must be over the legal limit according to their “blood alcohol concentration” (or BAC). If a driver is tested and their BAC level is 0.08% or higher, then they are legally intoxicated and will be charged with a DUI. So although it is not illegal to have open containers of alcohol in your car, if you were drinking before you got behind the wheel or you were drinking alongside the passenger and have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, you will get a DUI.
Zero Tolerance in Missouri and Open Containers
If you are under the age of 21 and have a passenger who is drinking, that is really not a good idea. If your passenger is under 21 and drinking, that is illegal and can lead to them getting a ticket – or worse, being arrested for underage drinking. Missouri also has Zero Tolerance Laws. If you are under 21 and your BAC is more than 0.02, then you can be accused of driving while intoxicated, which can have severe consequences.
Can a Drunk Driver File Bankruptcy to Avoid Paying?
Bankruptcy is an option for people with a debt to erase their financial burden and start fresh. If someone is held financially responsible for an accident, one solution to discharge this debt is through filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, whether these debts are related to personal injury or property damage.
However, the Missouri law specifically adds two main exceptions to this rule:
1. Driving Under the Influence
If an individual is caught driving while under the influence, and as a result has caused injury to another party, then they cannot discharge this debt through bankruptcy. They may still continue the procedure and discharge any other debts you may have at a time, but any fees involving criminal fines, court fees, and such payments still have to be made.
2. Harming on Purpose
If the investigation reveals that someone has purposely caused the accident that resulted in injury or property damage, then they cannot discharge this debt through a bankruptcy claim. As such, the heat of the moment accidents makes them completely accountable. As an example, if someone runs their car through a neighbors property on purpose, they will have to cover for the damages.
Missouri drivers must also carry auto insurance with certain minimum coverages:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $10,000 per accident for property
However, the insurance company may deny to cover the costs if a they driver is found guilty of a crime (like driving under the influence), or if the damages exceed the minimum coverage.
How to guard against drinking under the influence
The dangers of driving under the influence are very apparent. It important for everyone, especially those who are under the age of 21, to be educated about the dangers of drinking alcohol. Never get behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk. If you are of legal drinking age and plan on drinking, make arrangements to have a designated driver or have a taxi take you home. Do not allow a friend who has been drinking drive you home.
If you have been involved in an accident with someone who was driving under the influence in St. Louis, you deserve to be compensated for any resulting injuries and damages. Contact our law firm by calling (314) 361-4242 and scheduling a free consultation.