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Kelly & West News

What’s the Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?

A person arrested on charges of a DUI or DWI will face severe legal reciprocations. While the two terms look similar, their meanings are slightly different:

DWI: Driving while intoxicated.

DUI: Driving under the influence.

Some states also use two terms to differentiate between alcohol-impaired or drug-impaired driving. In these areas, a DUI refers specifically to a person under the influence of drugs.

North Carolina residents no longer have to worry about recognizing the difference between the two; the North Carolina Safe Roads Act of 1983 removed the previous drug- and alcohol-specific driving laws and grouped them all into the single offense of driving while impaired, or DWI.

Under North Carolina legislation, any blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 percent is considered unfit to drive. For drivers under age 21, any alcohol concentration is deemed illegal.

Driving while impaired isn’t the only alcohol-related offense; transporting alcohol can cause a violation, too. According to the North Carolina General Assembly, state law also prohibits:

  • Having an open container in the vehicle if the driver is or has been consuming alcohol.
  • Having an open or closed container in the passenger area of a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Helping someone younger than 21 years old obtain alcohol. This includes buying or giving them alcohol or lending an ID so they can buy alcohol.

The penalties for a DWI or other alcohol-related offenses can include fines, community service, higher car insurance rates, license suspension/revocation, or even jail time.

How to Avoid a DUI/DWI

By making smart choices, it’s easy to avoid receiving a DWI. By being a smart driver, you’ll help ensure that you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road safely arrive at your destinations.

If you know you’ll be drinking at an upcoming event or destination, be sure to plan a safe ride home in advance. This could be via a “designated driver” (a friend who is responsible for remaining sober to drive the group home), a taxi, or another transit choice. If you have the option, you can also choose to stay in the same location overnight and avoid driving at all!

If you do plan to drink and drive, make sure you know your body’s limits and stick to them. To better understand how your body processes alcohol, you can use a BAC level chart or BAC calculator. While these resources are helpful tools to understand the effects of alcohol on your body, they are only estimates and should not be considered accurate. Only you can know how your body reacts to alcohol consumption, and how many drinks you can consume safely. However, in any situation, it is best to allow a non-drinking driver to take the wheel.

If you have further questions regarding a DUI or DWI, the Kelly & West team is happy to assist you.

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