- How to Keep “Blackout Wednesday” from Ruining Your Holidays… and Even the Rest of Your Life
How to Keep “Blackout Wednesday” from Ruining Your Holidays… and Even the Rest of Your Life
Early last Thanksgiving morning, just after closing time at local watering holes, two Michigan families were forever impacted by a tragic collision that took place in Plymouth Township. The dramatic head-on crash on M-14 resulted in a pair of fatalities, and left one critically injured victim fighting for his life.
As you may imagine, police officials said they suspect that alcohol was partly to blame for this holiday tragedy – two more lives claimed by what’s become known as “Blackout Wednesday,” the start of a long weekend that’s among the deadliest times of year for alcohol-related accidents. In fact, the statisticians at MoneyGeek predict the likelihood of DUI fatalities will rise to 55 percent above average on Thanksgiving this year, forever transforming what should have been a joyful and memorable time into an eternally depressing day for many Michiganders.
What Makes “Blackout Wednesday” So Deadly?
There are several factors that account for this set of circumstances. Holiday celebrations are just beginning, and the long, four-day weekend is right on the horizon. Families are gathering from distant places to rekindle traditions like roast turkey, pumpkin pie, and Detroit Lions football. And, needless to say, if you’ve traveled during the Thanksgiving weekend in recent years, you’ve probably experienced some of the worst traffic jams and most crowded highways of the season. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving is predicted to be one of the busiest travel times of 2023. Throw weary drivers and alcohol into the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster, an example of which we witnessed in Plymouth last year and will unfortunately see again. That’s why we’ve decided to take the opportunity to remind everyone of Michigan’s laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI), and to share some other important holiday traffic safety information.
Michigan Has Robust DUI Laws and Strict Penalties in Place
The Michigan State Police are often first on the scene of serious accidents, so they continually work to enhance highway safety across the state. As part of that mission, officers regularly test suspected drunk drivers for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and have recently adopted an advanced measuring device called the Intoxilyzer 9000 to validate their findings. In fact, all State Police officers who use this alcohol detection device are required to undergo a lengthy initial certification process and an ongoing renewal process every two years. Michiganders who are found to be intoxicated face severe penalties, including fines and jail time based upon the BAC level at the time of arrest, as well as their number of prior convictions. For reference, the legal alcohol limit in the state of Michigan is 0.08, meaning that your blood is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Here are some specifics on legal penalties if you’re caught driving with a BAC of 0.08, courtesy of the State Police:
“If BAC is below .17 and this is a first offense:
- Up to $500 fine
- Up to 93 days in jail
- Up to 360 hours of community service
- Up to 180 days license suspension
- 6 points on a driver’s license
If BAC is .17 or higher and this is a first offense:
- Up to $700 fine
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Up to 360 hours of community service
- Up to one year license suspension
- 6 points on a driver’s license
- Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program
- Ignition interlock use and compliance after 45 days license suspension is required to receive a restricted driver’s license. Convicted drunk drivers have limited driving privileges, are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an approved and properly installed ignition interlock device and are responsible for all installation and upkeep costs for the device.
Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension. For a second refusal within seven years, the suspension is two years. Convicted drunk drivers are subject to a $1,000 penalty for two consecutive years under the Driver Responsibility Act, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs.”
For repeat Michigan DUI offenders, the penalties grow even more harsh, as Forbes Advisor outlines:
- A second DUI offense will result in up to a year behind bars, fines as high as $1,000, as many as 90 days of court-ordered community service, and vehicle immobilization up to 180 days (or even forfeiture of the driver’s car).
- A third DUI offense brings up to five years in jail, fines up to $5,000, up to 180 days of community service, and the driver’s vehicle could be immobilized for up to three years (or he/she could be ordered to forfeit it entirely).
And if you injure or kill someone while you’re driving under the influence, it only gets worse. The national Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization has compiled a nationwide listing of penalties for drivers convicted of vehicular homicide. In Michigan, you can be fined from $2,500 up to $10,000, and imprisoned for up to 15 years (20 years if the victim is a police officer, firefighter, or someone who worked in emergency response) if you kill someone while driving under the influence. We think you’d agree that spending time in jail would not be a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year (or for many additional years).
Drivers Under Age 21 Also Face Strict Penalties
For more detailed information on the state’s rules on how drunk drivers will be treated, we suggest reading “You Are At Risk” – a 26-page guidebook from the Michigan Secretary of State, which spells out DUI penalties in greater detail, describes Michigan’s zero-tolerance rules for young drivers, and offers numerous tips for safer driving. Parents might also wish to share the state’s “Under 21” alcohol possession information guide with younger drivers in their households. It notes that receiving citations even for being a Minor in Possession (MIP) while not behind the wheel can negatively impact future job prospects, harm college admission chances, and possibly affect military recruitment opportunities.
Enhanced DUI Enforcement Starts Now, and Will Continue Throughout the Holiday Season
As they do at many times throughout the year, law enforcement officials will keep a very close eye on highways statewide and remain on the lookout for intoxicated drivers in the coming days and weeks. And while Michigan doesn’t permit blanket sobriety checkpoints, our neighbors in Ohio and Indiana (along with 36 other states and provinces throughout Canada) do allow officers to check every driver for alcohol use at organized DUI traffic stops. It’s all part of public safety efforts designed to prevent alcohol-related fatalities from happening when and where they’re most likely to occur.
A Michigan DUI Conviction Can Stay on Your Record Forever
Prevention is also the goal of Michigan’s driver’s license point system, which assigns demerit points for various traffic violations. Accumulate too many points over time, and your license can be suspended or revoked. Six points are posted to your driving record for a DUI conviction, and if you accumulate 12 points in a two-year period your driving privileges can be pulled. But, while points expire two years after being posted, a DUI conviction will likely remain on your record forever – which can significantly hike your car insurance cost. Michigan’s rates are already among the highest in the nation, and according to Bankrate, a DUI conviction here raises a driver’s insurance premiums an average of 166 percent. Plus you’ll be saddled with the extra cost of having to obtain an SR-22 certificate from your insurance company. And while it has recently become possible to get a first offense DUI conviction expunged after five years (under certain circumstances), that’s not guaranteed to happen. If you killed or injured someone while driving drunk, an expungement is not permitted at all.
What if You’re Injured by a Drunk Driver this Thanksgiving Weekend?
While we sincerely hope you and your loved ones will enjoy a happy and safe holiday season, we know that nothing we say here will prevent irresponsible drivers from speeding, running red lights, drinking to excess, or otherwise breaking traffic safety laws intended to prevent serious injuries to innocent people. If you find yourself in harm’s way, know that the team at Mike Morse Law Firm will be here for you and the people you care about most. To reach us anytime day or night, call 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), or contact us online 24/7/365. Like our tens of thousands of other satisfied clients, we’re sure you’ll give thanks once you know you have us by your side.
Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.