When it comes to the actual difference between DUI vs. DWI, there’s quite a bit of explaining to do. But first of all it’s good to remind ourselves what these abbreviations really stand for.
So DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired. However there are a few other terms that stand for about the same type of deviations.
This basically means that we also have DUIL (Driving Under the Influence of Liquor), OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated), OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and OUI (Operating Under the Influence). But regardless of the acronym, these abbreviations basically have the same overall meaning.
What is the Difference between DUI and DWI?
However, as far as DWI versus DUI is concerned, it’s good to become aware of the slight, yet significant meaning differences between the two.
- The first thing you should know is that these two terms don’t refer to drunk driving per se. For instance, your being arrested for DUI needs no additional proof that you were drunk. All the information they need to operate with is that the driver had enough to drink or consumed enough drugs, that the ability to properly control a vehicle was impaired.
- DWI typically means that the driver was caught drunk driving, while DUI refers to affected judgment, regardless of the type of substance consumed. This is the common difference between the two, despite the fact that this can vary from state to state. We’ll be discussing these details throughout the article.
- For states that accept both terminologies, DUI usually refers to a less hefty charge, so it refers to less intoxication as determined by someone’s Blood Alcohol Limit (BAL).
- The BAL is universally accepted at 0.08% for impaired drivers aged 21 or older. But if the impairment is really obvious, the limit may decrease to 0.05%. As far as drivers who are under 21 are concerned, they may have a 0.02% BAC or 0.00% in zero tolerance states.
- As far as penalties are concerned, they vary by state and by number of offenses, too. They can range from jail time to education programs.
- Some states don’t use DWI at all, while others don’t use DUI at all. But still some accept both terms, considering various circumstances.
So by and large this is the main difference between DWI and DUI
Which states Use DUI vs. DWI and DWI vs. DUI? What About OUI vs. OWI?
When referring to drunk driving, the following states use DUI:
Alabama (AL), Arizona (AZ), California (CA), Colorado (CO), Connecticut (CT), Delaware (DE), Florida (FL), Georgia (GA), Hawaii (HI), Idaho (ID), Illinois (IL), Kansas (KS), Kentucky (KY), Maryland (MD), Michigan (MI), Mississippi (MS), Montana (MT), Nevada (NV), New Hampshire (NH), New Mexico (NM), North Dakota (ND), Ohio (OH), Oklahoma (OK), South Carolina (SC), South Dakota (SD), Tennessee (TN), Utah (UT), Vermont (VT), Virginia (VA), Washington (WA), West Virginia (WV), Wyoming (WY).
The states that use DWI to refer to drunk driving:
Alaska (AK), Arkansas (AR), Louisiana (LA), Minnesota (MN), Missouri (MO), Nebraska (NE), New Jersey (NJ), New York (NY), North Carolina (NC), Texas (TX), Washington, D.C. (DC).
The states that use OUI and OWI:
Indiana (IN), Iowa (IA), Maine (ME), Massachusetts (MA), Oregon (OR), Pennsylvania (PA), Rhode Island (RI), Wisconsin (WI).
Zero Tolerance States
Before getting into any other further explanations, it’s good to know that some U.S. states, such as New Jersey (NJ), have adopted a zero tolerance policy as far as drinking and driving is concerned. The question that says: “Whats the difference between a DUI and a DWI?” becomes absurd. Because these zero tolerance states make no distinction between the two. They believe that any BAC over the legal limit is a crime, despite any further sobriety tests the driver may successfully pass.
Moreover these zero tolerance states use the term DUI when referring to the driver being under the influence of drugs, rather than under the influence of alcohol.
Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence
Operating a vehicle has a broader meaning, which includes driving a vehicle, but it isn’t reduced to that. This usually refers to even sitting or resting behind the wheel of a vehicle while being under the influence. The term vehicle may refer to a car, a truck, a motorcycle, a golf cart, a tractor, a bicycle, even a horse or a skateboard in some cases. Some states might charge you even if you are found behind the wheel, resting or sleeping, with the engine turned off. But this charge differs from one state to another.
As far as operating the vehicle on a public road is concerned, some states charge you albeit you are driving the vehicle on your own property and the vehicle isn’t even a car. Driving a golf cart on a golf course under the influence is also included. On the other hand some states charge you only if you are operating a vehicle on a public road.
In terms of popular culture and the kind of news and photos the newspapers and magazines like to exploit for the shock value, many of us have probably heard of the mugshots from El Paso DWI cases. The police department records from El Paso are publicly displayed online on the official website, increasing the inconvenience for every driver arrested for this offense. Even after the consequences and paid for and served, the problem with this display is that virtually anyone can easily find out about the convicted person’s track record, no matter whether they are their potential employer or their potential girlfriend.
Driving under the influence means driving under the influence of an intoxicating drug or beverage. But the terms “drunk driving” can be more precise than that. It can mean a BAL that exceeds the legal limit of 0.08% in all states, or 0 – 0.02% for all those under 21 years of age in many states.
The term “driving under the influence” has a wide acceptance range. For instance, some states, such as California, this term has a more mellow significance: the prosecutor must prove that you were impaired to such a degree that stopped you from driving the vehicle just like a sober person under the given circumstances. In the state of Colorado, the prosecutor only needs the proof that you were “impaired to the slightest degree” in order to set a felony sentence. Apart from this one, another frequently used term is “impaired to an appreciable degree.” The meaning for this one is individually explained by the judge if you go to trial, or you can look it up in a law library or on the website corresponding to your court.
DUI Per Se
DUI Per Se accuses the driver of conducting a vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. It’s not the effects of alcohol that this term refers to. You can be perfectly lucid apparently, but still be driving under the influence. A BAL higher than the legal limit constitutes a DUI Per Se. This is a widely accepted felony barometer for operating a vehicle on a public road, despite the actual state of the driver. He/ she may pass the sobriety test, but this will no longer be relevant if the BAC exceeds 0.08%. This is a DUI Per Se.
If a driver is charged with a breath or a blood test that shows a BAC of 0.11% or higher he usually has no other choice than to plead guilty. On the other hand, if the BAL is under 0.10 or less, most people are inclined to fight for diminishing their guilt.
Particular Uses Of the DUI and DWI Terms
DUI vs DWI Texas
The state of Texas uses both terms, depending on the age of the defendant, meaning that those who are under 21 years old and are driving impaired are charged with a DUI, as Texas is among the states that apply a zero tolerance policy for drivers that are under 21. On the other hand, drivers who are over 21 and found driving under the influence are charged with a DWI. In other words, all in all Texas uses DWI more than DUI. A first offense can charge one with up to 180 days in jail, with up to $2000 in fines, and also a license suspension from 90 days to a year.
DWI in New York
The state of NY doesn’t use DUI, but DWI or DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). The latter refers to driving with a BAC limit that’s below the 0.08% limit, while the former is used whenever we have to deal with a limit of 0.08% or above. The ones charged with a DWI defense are likely to spend up to one year in jail, also are compelled to pay a fine between $500 and $1000. Moreover the ones charged have their license suspended for up to a year, but no less than 6 months. We are talking about a first declination here. Second or even third time offenders face worse penalties. They also must have an interlock device installed at all times.
Drunk Driving Statistics
Drunk driving statistics are facing an overall decline. Here are some useful facts and figures:
- The overall decrease since The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility was introduced back in 1991 is 49%.
- In 2013, for every 100,000 people, 3-4 people were killed in a fatal crash related to drunk driving.
- All in all 31% of the total traffic fatalities of 2013 were related to driving under the influence.
- Out of the 32,719 people who died in car accidents in 2013 in the United States of America, 10,076 of them died in a crash related to drunk driving with a driver having a BAC higher than 0.08%.
- 65% of them were driving, while 27% of them were mere vehicle occupants. 8% of them were not vehicle occupants, but collateral victims.
- The average numbers estimate that one individual died in a drunk driving incident every 52 minutes. This equals about 27 people every day.
- As far as teenage deaths are concerned, in 2007 1,393 teens died in drunk-driving accidents.
- Car accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths in the U.S. 1 out of 3 dies in a fatal car crash.
- Someone is injured in a drunk-driving accident every 90 seconds in the U.S.
Driving Under the Influence Articles
Whenever you come across articles that talk about these kind of deaths answering a question like “What is the difference between a DUI and a DWI?” becomes ridiculously useless.
Consulting some articles that present actual accident stories can make one become aware of the risks that come with drinking and driving. According to a Los Angeles Times story that dates back to May 2013, tremendous debate regarding whether to decrease the legal 0.08% limit is seriously taken into consideration.
The idea according to which alcohol impaired crushes are actually crimes and not car accidents, is gaining ground. Authorities claim they have the necessary tools to prevent these faults from being committed still, and that the drinking and driving terms should not admit compromises.
According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, it appears that people still believe that if someone’s BAC is under the legal 0.08% limit, he/she is safe to drive. But what this legal limit really means is that the chances of getting involved in a fatal accident are extremely high, actually up to 3 times higher. It’s the punishment that’s less severe, not the risks.
Moreover a Congress bill in 2012 stated that additional highway improvement money were to be offered to states that compel DUI offenders to have an interlock device installed on their car. This is what New York is beginning to do. Or offenders in Los Angeles County as well as in 3 other California counties have been required to install such devices in their cars since 2010. This is part of a test program that runs through 2016, which is supposed to reveal a more accurate progress as far as the drinking and driving percentage is concerned.
The Norfolk Tragic Crash
Now let’s take a look at a recent case that happened in February 2015, when a driver charged with DUI killed a teenage boy in Norfolk. The driver is 22 years old and the boy he killed was 17. The incident took place on February the 7th, at 2 a.m. in the 8500 block of Chesapeake Blvd. Luis Suazo-Walto lost control of his car and hit it against a tree, killing the teen who was a passer by. The case is currently under investigation by the state attorney in order to determine a suited penalty for the young man who was DUI.
Teens on a Ride Crash Because of Mechanical Problems
During the same weekend another gang of teens suffered a car accident in Bosque County. Jason Mata,15, was driving a Dodge truck and had 3 of his friends in for the ride. They were driving south on Highway 6, near Chapman Road. Mata, who was driving the vehicle, lost control and the car rolled for a few times. He was killed and his friends were mildly injured. But in this case it seems the young driver was not DUI. The car is likely to have had a mechanical problem that pushed things too far because of the speed.
“I am a monster. I am so lost”
This is the famous statement that Joshua Malmgren, 33, of Lower Township, NJ said after killing two teenage girls after DUI. One was 13 years old and one was 15. Malmgren was thus sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was not only drunk while at the wheel, but it appears that he had also been texting prior to the collision. This is a case in which teens have to suffer because of the mistakes made by irresponsible adults. Here’s the video of his conviction.
But the thing is that cases like this happen all the time and it seems that no matter how rough the penalties may get, people are still tempted to take a risk and thus never give up on having a good time, even if this implies alcohol or drug consumption.
Another incredible fact is that it appears that over 40% of overall teen auto death takes place between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Moreover what youngsters seem to forget, or choose to forget, depending on their own parents’ habits is to never use the phone while driving. Following their parents or their friends’ they easily get into the bad habit of using their phones while at the wheel. But what they just don’t seem to care about is the fact that tests proved that using a phone in the car can reduce the reaction time down to that of a 70-year old driver.
Things can be valid both ways. Teens are victims and aggressors at the same time. So they are not the problem. It’s not them who are irresponsible and want to show off. It’s their parents who are their model setters. It’s the adults who should start making changes in this case, not the youngsters.
There’s no DUI DWI persuasive speech anyone can give in order to make someone quit the awful habit of drinking and driving. Prevention is a lot of times learned the hard way, by putting up with tragic consequences. The Internet is fed up with videos and pictures of automobile tragedies that seem to change our mindset in a lesser extent than normal. Some innocent people die in crashes caused by strangers at a wrong timing.
What we are asking you is to educate yourself. To make plans ahead so that you know you have taxi money or a designated driver; even a back up designated driver if necessary, instead of having to desperately find a lawyer once things have gotten really messy and sad. On the other hand, in case you are hosting a party, act as if you were their mother and make sure everyone is leaving with a sober driver. In case this is impossible, offer them a spending the night alternative and make sure they don’t get hold of their car keys. DUI and DWI are not some bad jokes. They are happening as we speak. Bottom line, it’s not about DWI vs DUI at all. It’s about life vs. death.