Veterans are at a Much Higher Risk for DUI, Study Finds


Many veterans experience challenges transitioning from military to civilian life. According to a recent study by American Addiction Centers, the net effect is higher rates of veteran alcohol and drug usage when compared to non-veterans. This has driven a nearly 60% increase in drunk driving among veterans since 2014.

The emotional and physical trauma of military service and war can lead veterans to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study has linked PTSD with overconsumption of alcohol and binge drinking.

Binge Drinking is Leading to More DUI

It is not surprising that veterans drinking more is leading to higher rates of drunk driving and DUI arrests. Veteran drunk driving occurrence is most prevalent in California, Kentucky and Washington, D.C.. Since 2014, the percentage of veterans arrested for drunk driving has increased 60% from 1.6% up to 2.5% of veterans. And the rate amongst women veterans has increased at nearly double the rate of men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 29 people per day die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. That is 10,500 deaths per year at an annual cost to society of over $44 billion. It is clear that more needs to be done to address veteran health and reduce the incidence of DUI.

Support For Veterans Charged With DUI

Many states offer specialized Veteran Treatments Courts (VTC) that target addressing the root cause of criminal behavior through specialized treatment and support. Getting a case moved to VTC is accomplished through a court order from the judge overseeing the case.

In VTC, veterans get professional treatment designed to address their needs. VTC treatment programs typically involve meeting regularly with the judicial officer, treatment providers, support teams, mentors and other veterans facing similar challenges.

Ways to Fight DUI Charges

Dealing with DUI penalties including fines, license suspensions, traffic school, and even jail time can be very stressful. This is especially true for veterans who feel they were incorrectly charged for DUI.

According to Tsion Chudnovsky, an Orange County criminal defense attorney, “there are many ways that law enforcement can make mistakes when arresting someone for driving under the influence.” Her law firm, Chudnovsky Law, regularly identifies innocent medical conditions, dietary, procedure errors, and equipment calibration issues that cause false positive blood alcohol (BAC) test results.

DUI convictions carry harsh penalties. It is usually smart to consult a DUI defense attorney to see if the police made an error or there are grounds to fight the charge. There is a long list of potential DUI defense strategies including:

  • Breathalyzer Test Errors
  • Lack of Probable Cause for the Police Stop
  • Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests
  • Inaccurate or Inadmissible Blood Test
  • Ketosis from Atkins Diets or Diabetes

An experienced attorney knows how to evaluate the evidence to determine if the court can be convinced to dismiss the DUI.

What Solutions Are Available to Reduce Drinking?

Extensive research indicates that PTSD is one of the main contributors to binge drinking amongst veterans. Binge drinking is linked to over 25 percent of veterans who self-identify as depressed. Depressed veterans are more than twice as likely to engage in drunk driving than those who are not.

These factors make it clear that improving the psychological well-being of depressed veterans should be a clear goal. The U.S. Department of Veterans has a wide range of PTSD treatment programs that attempt to address this challenge. More needs to be done.

There are also several things that can be done to effectively fight alcoholism:

  • Share to Care

One thing veterans can do is tell everyone they know about the issue, including friends and family members, which should help create a net of support. These individuals are going to remind the veteran of his or her desire to quit drinking.

  • Avoid Triggers

People who abuse alcohol develop triggers. These triggers remind this individual to drink, so it is important to recognize them and avoid them. For example, one common trigger is a bar, but there are others, like friends who are abusing alcohol. It is important to avoid these triggers as much as possible.

  • No Stocking

Veterans having trouble with alcohol should do their best to avoid shopping for alcohol. It may be hard at first, but a major source of alcohol comes from home, so this is an important step.

  • Join a Peer Support Group

It is usually a good idea for a veteran having trouble with alcohol to join a peer support group. While there is often resistance to the idea at first, research has shown that peer support groups can be a powerful tool in fighting alcoholism.

Given the sacrifices they’ve made for their country, veterans deserve society’s full support and assistance in achieving mental and physical well-being.


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