OUI or Operating Under the Influence

In France, oui means “yes” but in many places in the United States it means a heavy fine or even jail time. OUI, or “operating under the influence” is a serious charge and not to be taken lightly. Penalties range from expensive fines, to losing driver licenses and at some point, confinement.

In the state of Maine, under certain circumstances such as driving with a passenger under 21, excessive speeding or having a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of .14, a mandatory minimum jail sentence of two days is enforced. Refusing to take a breath or blood test to determine the level of BAC draws a mandatory four-day jail sentence with a minimum $600.00 fine. A driver who causes the death of another person because the driver is OUI can receive up to twenty years in prison.

Driving while intoxicated is a national plague that is responsible for killing thousands of people each year. OUIs are the cause of millions, if not billions of dollars in property damage each year. A poll by the Gallup Organization found in 2003, that 97% of Americans see drunk driving as a threat to their safety.

Statistics on OUI are alarming if not outright scary. Over 8 percent of Americans fall within the diagnostic criteria of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. This means there are upwards to eighteen million people among the population that may be driving under the influence of alcohol beverages.

OUI is not just a problem with adults. A study completed in 2004 by Hingson and Kenkel accounted for 6000 people dying in 2002 from alcohol related accidents caused by under-aged drinkers. Of these 6000, twenty-two hundred were traffic fatalities.

Another study indicated that underage alcohol used is more likely to kill young people than all the illegal drugs combined.

Much of the problem with underage drinking stems from lack of follow-up against adults who ignore existing laws against selling to minors. The laws exist, but low and inconsistent levels of enforcement let offenders continue to operate unaffected in many cases.

We need tougher laws and the ability to get those OUIs off the streets. With an estimated eighteen million people dying annually from alcohol related traffic accidents, it is crucial that our laws and law enforcement prevail. Americans must find ways to prevent drinkers from gaining access to their vehicles while under the influence.

OUI. Yes, it is a matter of life or death.