Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it?


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Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it?

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it?

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving - or is it?

There is a campaign aimed to stop buzzed driving.  But what is the definition of buzzed driving?  Is buzzed driving illegal?  Is buzzed driving the same as drunk driving or DUI?  Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it?

What does buzzed driving mean?

The term “buzzed” has been around the world of alcohol consumption for a very long time.  Only recently has NHTSA, through a series of advertisements new ad campaign sponsored by NHTSA (the “National Highway Transportation Safety Administration”) and the ad council (television ads and billboards), impressed upon the public the slogan “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving”.

NHTSA said that in their surveys, they found that young men between the ages of 18 and 34 were responsible for the vast majority of drunk-driving accidents. But when asked, these young men made a distinction between being drunk and being buzzed.

The ad council asks people to take a pledge that states:

Even just one too many drinks can impair my driving and lead to devastating consequences. It’s just not worth it. Buzzed driving is drunk driving, so I’m going to make sure I make responsible choices that don’t endanger myself and others.

I doubt anyone would have a problem with that.  But what is “one too many drinks?” That is highly variable and suggests that people know what too many is for them, and what one beyond that number is.

More importantly, the law in California, California Vehicle Code section 23152(a), has a definition for what is illegal driving under the influence:

Under that law, a prosecutor must prove the following two facts (the “elements of the crime”):

  1. that you drove a motor vehicle, and
  2. that you were under the influence of alcohol or another substance at the time you drove.

That’s it.  However, “under the influence” has another definition, as follows:

Under the Official California Jury Instructions, Criminal, specifically CALJIC 16.831 Alcohol or Drug Influenced Driving- Vehicle Code, a jury must be given the following official definition:

23152(a) “Under the Influence”-Defined. (“A person is [under the influence of an alcoholic beverage] [under the influence of a drug] [under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug] when as a result of [drinking such alcoholic beverage] [and] [using a drug] [his] [her] physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that [he] [she] no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”)

To put it more simply, “a driver’s physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that they no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances”.

So what is the definition of Buzzed Driving?

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it? The dictionary definition of buzzed driving is, “A state of pleasant intoxication, as from alcohol.”  At least one website has the definition, which is a misleading interpretation of the law, that buzzed driving “is defined as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 to .07”.

That is consistent with the the federal agency recommending recently that states lower the legal BAC for driving. NHTSA suggests lowering the BAC to .05. According to the NTSB, at .05, some drivers have problems with depth perception.

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it? No. Saying “buzzed” driving is “drunk driving” is a play on semantics. Could buzzed driving be drunk driving under the legal definition? It could be only if you have enough of alcohol or another substance to impair your ability to drive safely, or are above a .08%.

The new slogan is a part of a continued effort to change and lower the public perception of what it means to be intoxicated behind the wheel.

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving – or is it if jurors believe it is?However, this may be a good way for jurors to misapply the law and convict people who really haven’t done anything wrong, which is where many Orange County DUI Defense Attorneys have a problem with the statement.


Contact our firm if you have questions about “buzzed driving” or driving under the influence in Orange County.


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