We can all remember that sensation of freedom after getting a driver’s license and being able to drive alone the first time. The world feels like it’s at your fingertips, knowing you can drive virtually anywhere you want at any time.
Driving offers independence, convenience and an outlet from daily stressors. The privilege of driving, however, can be taken away in a moment. A DUI charge can drastically impact a person, bringing about social, legal, financial and emotional consequences.
Driving again after a DUI can come with all kinds of emotions. Relief at being able to drive again, guilt over a bad decision, frustration with jumping through the hoops of the legal progress and hope about a fresh start.
Another feeling you might be having: determination to keep from driving under the influence. Here are all the things you might need to know to build on that motivation to stay safe before you turn the key and get back on the road.
Before you get on the road
Don’t pick up those keys just yet. Even if you’ve had your license reinstated and have completed any court-ordered protocol, there are still some things to know before you hit the road. Driving is a privilege, and having lost the freedom temporarily, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid injuring yourself or another and losing the ability to drive permanently.
Put things in perspective
Stay motivated to drive sober by reminding yourself of the importance of road safety. Putting yourself in danger is foolish, but consider that you’re also putting others in danger when you drive drunk. Getting into an accident is much more common when a driver is intoxicated, and imagine how you would feel if a loved one was injured or killed by a drunk driver. Reckless driving has devastating effects on individuals and families. Remind yourself to keep safety in mind so you make smarter choices when you start driving after a DUI.
Learn about your state’s laws
Safety should be a top priority while driving, but there are other reasons to avoid driving while intoxicated. A second or third DUI conviction comes with much more severe penalties than an initial DUI. Legal and financial consequences will differ by state, but you can assume that they’re going to be harsh.
Repeat DUI charges always result in a suspended license for a much longer time period than the first. In some states, a repeat DUI will mandate jail time. A second DUI conviction could be considered a felony, especially if someone was injured, and a third or fourth offense will be considered a felony in nearly every state. A felony typically results in a minimum of one year of jail time and revokes certain civil privileges, like voting.
There are also high penalties for driving with a suspended license, so don’t even think about it. Lock your car keys away or give them to someone you trust if you don’t think you can handle the time you’ll need to wait before you can drive again. Avoiding these serious legal consequences may be all the motivation you need to stay safe on the road.
Tips to stay vigilant
In order to enjoy all the perks of responsible driving, you’ll have to relearn some skills and refocus on others. Driving, by nature, is a dangerous endeavor. Staying vigilant on the road can keep you from making bad decisions.
You might be eager to start driving after a DUI, but make sure you’re ready. When you get back on the road you’ll want to be aware of your mental state. If your emotions compromise safe driving, wait, call a friend and get picked up. Don’t rush to get back behind the wheel.
Keep your vehicle in good working order, too. If you haven’t driven your car in a while, make sure everything works. Check the lights, the breaks, the tire pressure, change the oil or get new tires. You and others will be safer when you’re operating a vehicle that’s working how it should.
Know your triggers. Being self-aware about your weak points, whether it be driving by a certain bar or a late-night spout of boredom, you need to be conscious of the feelings and situations that could compromise your safety.
Whether you keep a journal or install a personal breathalyzer device in your car, you can help yourself to prepare for and face triggers in your daily life because they’re not going away- at least, not all of them. We will always encounter chances to use drugs or alcohol that could lead to intoxicated driving, but building strategies to combat these situations can help you stay out of even worse trouble.
Consider asking someone to help keep you accountable. Honestly express your triggers to drinking and drug use and opportunities to use that may come up. Have a friend or family member you trust check in with you to offer support when tough times come up, and check in with a mental health professional.
Driving is one of the most enjoyable and beneficial freedoms we have. Making smart decisions about driving again after a DUI will grant you all the perks of having your license for the rest of your life. A single decision could strip that away, so it’s important to remind yourself of all the reasons driving under the influence is a thing of your past.
Rehab After Work is an outpatient treatment center for those struggling with substance abuse. Flexible schedule and teletherapy options make recovery possible for your schedule and your needs. Call (610) 644-6464, or reach out to make an appointment today.