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Is Buzzed Driving Considered Drunk Driving?

Many adults believe they are safe to drink and drive as long as they don’t exceed Arizona’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. This is extremely dangerous misinformation that has led to thousands of alcohol-related car accidents, injuries, and deaths throughout the country. In reality, there is no “safe” amount of alcohol a driver can consume before getting behind the wheel. In Arizona, the law treats driving buzzed and driving drunk the same.

How Many Drinks is Too Many?

Too many drivers try to figure out just how many alcoholic beverages they can “safely” consume before driving. Some go by the rule of “four drinks for men and two for women.” The fact is that there is no safe amount of alcohol before driving. Alcohol affects everyone differently. No rule applies to every drinker, or even the majority of drinkers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created two charts to explain how alcohol affects people based on body weight and number of drinks. This chart is not the golden rule, but it can help drivers understand the dangers of consuming just one or two drinks. Based on the charts, just one drink will impair someone who weighs 100 pounds.

DUI/DWI Laws in Arizona

In Arizona, a driver does not have to be over the legal BAC limit to receive a driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) charge. It is the police officer’s prerogative to arrest a driver for DUI if he or she believes the driver has consumed enough alcohol to impair driving ability – regardless of BAC level. An officer may surmise this using field sobriety tests, talking to the driver, or noticing moving violations that led to the traffic stop, such as drifting in and out of lanes.

Police car video footage and the results of sobriety tests can serve as evidence of the driver’s impairment, even if chemical tests show a BAC lower than 0.08%. Commercial drivers and drivers under the age of 21 can also face DUIs for buzzed driving. The legal BAC limits are lower for these motorists. The State of Arizona enforces a strict 0.04% BAC maximum for commercial drivers, and any amount of alcohol for underage drinkers and drivers.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

The NHTSA reports an average of 13,000 alcohol-related crash deaths per year in the U.S. Drunk driving is an extremely serious problem that requires severe penalties to discourage drivers. If caught violating Arizona’s laws, a DUI conviction comes with sentences such as 10 days in jail, fines of $1,250, driver’s license suspension, required alcohol education programs, ignition interlock devices, and community service.

For subsequent DUI offenses, jail time increases to at least 90 days, with fines of $3,000, 12-month driver’s license revocation, ignition interlock system, mandatory drug/alcohol screenings, and community service. An “extreme DUI” is driving with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. Penalties for this offense include 30 to 120 days in jail and fines of $2,500 to $3,250. An aggravated DUI can result in two years in prison, 12-month driver’s license revocation, required alcohol programs/treatment, ignition interlock, and community service. In Arizona, buzzed driving is drunk driving. If you plan on drinking, don’t plan on driving.

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