Michigan's New 'Super Drunk' Law Put To The Test

Unfortunately, one in every person in this country will be affected by a drunk driver. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, more than 12,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of drunk driver accidents on our nation's highways. While most of the 50 states aptly have statutory offenses directed at those who drive under the influence of alcohol, Michigan has decided to tackle its own problem with what many call the "Super Drunk" law.

Last year, Michigan law enforcement made almost 40,000 DUI arrests. These numbers do not include almost 20,000 liquor-law-violations and public-drunkenness-related arrests. Still, 246 Michiganders lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes on the state's roadways last year which accounted for 33 percent of the state's crash fatalities.

In 2003, Michigan followed its sister states in amending its laws to establish .08 blood-alcohol content (BAC) as the new drunk driving standard. This replaced Michigan's previous two-tiered standard; however, with almost 75 percent of its alcohol-related fatalities involving drivers with BACs of .15 or higher, state legislators have enacted a new law, which has harsher penalties for any drivers with BACs of .17 or higher. The law doubles jail time, provides for license suspensions, and requires mandatory alcohol treatment.

This "High Blood Alcohol Content Enhanced Penalty" law is one of the many measures Michigan has taken to curb the problem of drunk driving. Since taking effect on Halloween 2010, the law is already being tested. In November, an Ann Arbor man lost control of his car and crashed in front of a Michigan State Trooper. After being taken to jail, a breath test confirmed a BAC of .30, almost four times the legal limit. Under the Super Drunk law, this man could be sentenced to one-year of alcohol treatment, six months in jail, fines and driver's license sanctions.

While law enforcement can deter some risky driving behavior, legal penalties are not the only remedies available. Victims and their families can recoup medical bills, lost wages, serious injuries, and even funeral costs through personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death claims. And, drunk drivers may not be the only culprits. Careless hosts and bar owners, who serve drunken patrons may be liable under Michigan's dram shop laws.

To combat drunken driving, entire communities must get involved. As Michigan tests its law, other states are watching and hoping that this stricter law can also help their residents.