Brett G. Gerald, 30 years old, pleaded guilty to seven counts of vehicular homicide in early December. He was accused of killing seven people in a head on collision on May 30. Gerald had been out celebrating his 30th birthday when he got in his car and drove away. Gerald’s vehicle crossed the center line and collided with a van on the opposite side of the road. The victims were Brenda Gaines, 64, who was driving, Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; Angela Matthews Mosely, 36; Willie Gaines Jr., 15, Rogerick Johnson, 13. All from Baton Rouge, they were headed home from a bible study session in Clinton, Louisiana. Five members of the vehicle were killed on the scene and two died later from injuries sustained during the crash.
Louisiana State Police say that Gerald’s blood alcohol content was .15, almost twice the legal limit. Gerald has yet to be sentenced but he’s facing anywhere from five to 30 years in prison on each count and fines ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 on each count. And this was not the first time Gerald had been convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Louisiana. He was convicted once in 2008 but served no jail time and then again in 2011. He served 48 hours in jail. This tragic story should be enough to deter anyone from drinking and driving but people across America continue to do it every single day.
Drinking and Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 32,885 people died in 2010 in car accidents and 31%, or 10,228 people, were people who died in crashes involving alcohol. Drinking and driving is obviously a deadly combination but some people may brush off the statistics and decide to drive home after three beers because they do not feel affected by the alcohol. By the time you get on the road, alcohol can increase in your blood stream, making you more impaired than when you left.
How Alcohol Affects You
Alcohol affects reaction time and not in a positive way. It takes longer for your brain to make important connections and in an accident, every second counts. Alcohol affects your vision, specifically depth perception and night vision. It can be hard to tell how far away an object actually is if you are under the influence of alcohol and your eyes can become blurry. With all this happening, a drunk may think they are being responsible by focusing on the road straight in front of them but by doing this, the driver avoids recognizing anything that is happening around them. Defensive driving 101. Other areas where alcohol can take a toll are your judgment, comprehension, coordination and confidence. When someone is under the influence of alcohol, they may obtain a false sense of confidence which can make someone feel they are capable of driving. This is extremely poor judgment but because they are drunk, that idea doesn’t coming into play.
Fines and Fees
Getting a DUI or DWI is very expensive, despite which state you live in. Law enforcement does not look kindly on anyone driving impaired and neither does your insurance company. After all penalties and insurance has been paid, a DUI can total over $10,000. If anyone knew that they would rack up a tab such as that, they might not drive drunk. And that is the point. The fees are supposed to be a deterrent to anyone thinking about drinking and driving but not only do people continue to get arrested each year, some have multiple offenses on their record. Anna Kristen Lokowich, of Missoula, Montana, received two DUI’s in the same day with her four year old child in the backseat. While this is an extreme example (and no, she is not allowed to see her child anymore) the fact that new offenders are caught every day is disturbing. Luckily, the DUI rate has decreased 50% since 1982 so education has gone a long way in deterring this act.
What If I Get a DUI?
If you get charged with a DUI, there are various things that can happen depending on your state’s laws. Many states have very high fees which include bail and kind of fees that the court sets upon you. You may even have to serve jail time depending on the severity of the crime and if you caused an accident. It is doubtful that Brett Gerald will be celebrating anymore birthdays outside of prison. Even if you luckily managed not to injure anyone else during this, your car insurance will be the one reminder of your mistake. Once you are convicted of a DUI, your driving privileges will be revoked for at least 30 days to a year depending on severity and number of offenses.
To get your driving privileges back, you will more than likely need to present the DMV with an SR-22 form, which proves you at least have liability insurance on your vehicle. This is the law too. When you apply for this insurance, you will be considered a high risk driver by your insurance company. And that is if you can get your old insurance company to insure you. If you have had multiple offenses on your record, they may drop you and you have to find a new company. Your premiums can double and even triple depending on how harsh your state’s insurance rates are to those convicted of a DUI. And this high premium you pay will last for several years and longer if you are a multiple offender.
If you think that you might not be able to afford insurance after your DUI, you can always go green and avoid personal transportation. Try biking, walking, or taking public transportation. If you can do this, you will be able to offset some of the costs associated with a DUI but the smartest thing you can do is the first. Choose not to drink and drive.