This may be a familiar scenario to you: you've had a couple of drinks and yet you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, thinking you're fine. No problem, right? Here's something to consider...you don't have to be driving erratically to get pulled over by an officer. Yes, there has to be just cause to get pulled over - some type of traffic violation or it could be as simple as a headlight or taillight that's burned out and not working. The next thing you know, you're getting arrested for having a blood alcohol level that is not legal to be operating a vehicle. That's right about the time your life gets turned upside down with what can happen next, depending on the level of alcohol in your blood and the resulting charges: DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the latter being the more serious charge.

Here in New York State, to be charged with DWAI, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), your blood alcohol content (BAC) needs to be .05 or higher and for DWI, your BAC needs to be .08 or higher. If the driver is under the age of 21, under the Zero Tolerance Law, they will be charged if their BAC ranges anywhere from .02 BAC to .07.

Once charged and depending on the severity of the charges, you face a minimum of a 90 day license suspension and as for monetary penalties, it ranges from a minimum of $300 to $5000. Can you afford that? Not to mention, you may wind up in the newspaper police blotter section and your car insurance will certainly go sky-high, IF your insurance company doesn't drop you like a hot potato. Does it all seem worth it now? Probably not.

Just to put all of this into perspective, last month, New York State Police Troop C, based out of Sidney (covering 5 area counties) arrested over three dozen people for Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired. Those arrested were from Stamford, West Winfield, Laurens, Port Crane, Cherry Valley, Candor, Otego, Mt. Vision, Harpursville, Windsor, Oneonta, Walton, Maryland, Milford, and Bainbridge.

How to avoid this life-changing event? It's simple. Either plan ahead and get a designated driver or stay home if you're going to drink. Just don't get behind the wheel.

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