You should know not to drive drunk, but do you know what to do if you’re injured by a drunk driver?
Drinking and driving can kill you or someone else. And if you’re charged with an alcohol-related offense, it can change your life forever. Here’s what you need to know before you drive in Nevada — how alcohol affects your body, what your BAC is, and what to do if you’ve been injured.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Nevada and can lead to hefty penalties, even for first-time offenders. Whether you're new to the state, a long-time resident, or just passing through, understanding the ins and outs of Nevada's DUI laws is essential. Read more for everything you need to know to stay safe and on the right side of the law.
What constitutes a DUI in Nevada?
- Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
In Nevada, as in many states, the legal limit for BAC when driving is 0.08%. However, if you're a commercial driver, that limit drops to 0.04%. And for those under 21, the state imposes a very strict 0.02% limit.
Even if your BAC is below these thresholds, if you're showing signs of impairment, you can still be charged with a DUI. The BAC limits apply regardless of whether you feel intoxicated. Alcohol affects everyone differently, and what might be one person's "buzzed" could be another's "intoxicated."
- Drugs and controlled substances
It's not just alcohol that can get you in trouble. Driving under the influence of drugs—both legal prescription medications and illegal substances—can also leave you with a DUI charge if they impair your ability to drive safely.
Penalties for a DUI in Nevada
The consequences for a DUI conviction in Nevada vary based on the number of offenses and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
|First DUI offense
|Second offense within 7 years
|Third and subsequent offenses within 7 years
|Between two days and six months
|10 days to six months
|One to six years in state prison
|Mandatory DUI school
|Possible mandatory treatment program
|Possible mandatory treatment program
It's also worth noting that if you cause an accident resulting in injury or death while DUI, the penalties are much stiffer.
Nevada's dram shop and social host laws
Dram shop laws
Nevada does not have a traditional dram shop law. In some states, bars, restaurants, and other commercial entities cannot be held liable if they serve alcohol to someone who later causes a drunk driving accident. In Nevada, a restaurant, bar or other entity cannot be held liable for the acts of an intoxicated person.
There are specific situations when the law would allow a third-party action against the provider of alcohol in Nevada. These include:
- Social hosts who serve or allow a minor to consume alcohol on the person’s property.
- Against a business or individual who provides alcohol (whether through serving or selling) to a minor under the age of 21.
The law prohibits claims against businesses or individuals who serve alcohol to people over the age of 21.
A Nevada law passed in 2021 applies the state’s dram shop laws to cannabis as well as alcohol. The Cannabis Compliance Board will create a regulatory framework for the new law, including penalties for providing cannabis to minors.
Social host laws
Nevada law allows an injured person to sue a social host who knowingly provides alcohol to a minor or allows a minor to consume alcohol on their property. A social host is anyone who provides or furnishes alcohol in a social setting.
The person doesn’t have to be physically present at a party or gathering to be liable. The person who provided alcohol for a party or to minors who caused an accident because of intoxication can be liable even if they were not present when the alcohol was consumed or served.
The real dangers of DUI
Beyond the legal consequences, driving under the influence carries severe risks:
- Accidents. Alcohol and drugs can impair judgment, slow reaction times, and hinder coordination. This increases the risk of an accident that endangers you, your passengers, and other road users.
- Health risks. Chronic drinking and drug use can lead to numerous health problems, both immediate and long-term.
- Financial impact. Beyond fines, a DUI can lead to higher insurance premiums, loss of job opportunities, and other long-term financial consequences.
You can read more here: What is the REAL Cost of Drunk Driving Accidents?
10 tips for avoiding a drunk driving accident
- Choose a designated driver. It’s important for the designated driver to take responsibility for transportation before the event begins. If you’re driving, it’s best not to drink at all. Everyone should agree on the designated driver so there’s no confusion after alcohol has been consumed.
- Find an alternative like a rideshare. Nowadays, there are plenty of options for a safe ride home if you don’t have a designated driver. Plan ahead and call an Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare arrangement if no one is sober to drive.
- Don’t leave. If all else fails, consider staying where you are. Certainly, if the situation is unsafe or you’ll be left with strangers, you need to think about other plans. But if you’re with friends or family and can stay the night or a few hours, that might be the best plan.
- Know your limits. There’s no specific amount of alcohol that yields a certain BAC or is “okay” to drive. There are a lot of factors that affect your BAC, and it might not be the same each time for each person. BAC is affected by your personal physiology like weight and age, but also by things like how recently you ate (and what you ate) and even your mood. Don’t rely on feeling “fine” to drive. The best approach is to plan not to drink if you know you need to drive.
- Host responsibly. If you're hosting, offer non-alcoholic drinks, monitor your guests, and ensure they have a safe way home.
- Stay alert while driving. Remember, it’s not just about you. Drunk drivers affect everyone on the road, so it’s important to watch for signs that the driver of anyother car might be intoxicated. Especially at night, watch for cars that are swerving or braking erratically.
- Keep your distance. If you spot someone you suspect is impaired, stay as far away as possible.
- Wear your seat belt. Of course, this doesn’t just matter for encountering a drunk driver. You should wear your seat belt anytime you’re riding in a car (and make sure everyone else in the car wears theirs, too).
- Call for help. If you see a vehicle that you suspect is being driven by an intoxicated person, call 911. Be prepared to provide the vehicle’s make and model if possible, along with the color and the license plate if you can read it. If you have a physical description of the driver, that can help, too.
- Don’t intervene. People who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs can be dangerous; don’t confront someone who is impaired. Let the police do their job and handle it so you don’t get hurt.
In conclusion, while Nevada's penalties for DUI are stiff, they pale in comparison to the potential human cost. Stay informed, make smart decisions, and always prioritize safety over convenience.