Spring Break and Drunk Driving Accidents
The months of March and April bring thousands of college kids to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast each year to celebrate Spring Break. While we love having the kids visit, whether New Orleans is their destination or they’re just passing through Louisiana and Mississippi on the way to Florida, we urge the Breakers to drink responsibly, to avoid car accident injuries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that March is the second most dangerous month for alcohol-related crashes, largely due to travelling Spring Breakers. In 2010, the highest percentage of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher was for drivers between the ages of 21 to 24. Throughout the month of March, law enforcement agencies will be extremely diligent in enforcing drinking age laws and working to keep impaired drivers off the road, and will certainly be targeting younger drivers.
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Lousiana Laws Governing Underage Drinking
The legal drinking age in Louisiana is 21 – not 18. It is illegal for someone under the age of 21 to purchase, consume or have in his or her possession any alcoholic beverage. The penalty for violation of the under age drinking law is a fine of $100, six months in jail or both and a 180-day suspension of the violator’s driver’s license for 180 days.
Louisiana Open Container Law
Despite the fact that Louisiana is the home of the drive-through daiquiri, it does have an open container law. It is illegal for any occupant of a moving vehicle to be in possession of an alcoholic beverage that is open to consumption. That includes beer, wine or liquor in any form. An open container is defined as any bottle, can or other receptacle that is open or has a broken seal; however, the frozen alcoholic beverage (those daquiries!) is not considered an open container as long as the plastic top is in place and there is no straw protruding from the top. Violation of the open container law results in a fine of no more than $100, but requires a court appearance, which can mean another trip to Louisiana that may not be much fun.
Louisiana Drunk Driving Laws and DWI
Louisiana is tough on drivers who are impaired. A driver who is over the age of 21 is presumed intoxicated if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or more. Higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood (0.15 or more) can increase penalties for DWI. Drugs other than alcohol can also be grounds for DWI and a combination of alcohol and prescription or over-the-counter drugs can constitute a DWI if the label warns against combining the medication with alcohol. For a driver under the age of 21, the blood alcohol concentration can be no greater than .02. A driver can refuse a breathalyzer test or other test, but will most likely spend the night in jail and have to be bailed out, and will lose his or her driver’s license for six months. Drunk driving accidents can lead to criminal charges of negligent injury or negligent homicide in addition to any other traffic charges.
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Top Tips to Avoid Drunk Driving Accident Injuries Over Spring Break
Spring Breakers can avoid danger, arrest and embarrassment by following a few simple rules:
- Book a hotel or condo near the places that you’ll want to hang out so you won’t need to drive.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol to a reasonable level. Drinking too much hampers your judgment (such as causing you to decide you’re pretty sure you can drive in spite of drinking) and can make you more susceptible to accidents or crime.
- If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, make the decision not to drive. Take a cab or bus. Call a friend. Call your hotel concierge and ask if there are shuttles.
- Keep an eye on your drink to make sure that no one puts a predatory drug in it and do not accept drinks from strangers.
- Avoid shooters and alcohol mixed with caffeinated drinks. Both can rapidly boost your blood alcohol concentration.
So, Spring Breakers, enjoy this precious time off from your studies and work, but be careful. We don’t want you to ruin your vacation with arrests or accidents and we want you back safe and sound next year!