Can a Dead Man Get a DUI? It Just Happened in Iowa.

Well, not dead, exactly. But far closer to dead than living. Definitely in the should-be-clinically-dead category.

driving-with-bac-of-point-6-close-to-deathIn North Liberty, Iowa police responded to 911 calls regarding a vehicle that was driving erratically and hitting curbs. It finally parked – a better term would be “ceased to drive” – on someone’s lawn. A police breathalyzer recorded the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at .486, but at a hospital a blood test revealed the final count: .627.

A pause to contemplate a BAC of .627. BAC numbers are something like batting averages, in that a .300 is extremely high, a .400 astonishing. Higher alcohol levels have been recorded on hospital blood tests, usually filed next to a death certificate.

To be legally drunk in the US means having a BAC of .08. That’s eight-tenths of a milligram of alcohol per 100 grams of blood. A .6 reading would mean well over half a gram of alcohol per 100 grams, more than seven times the legal limit and a frightening percentage of any foreign substance to have in one’s blood.

In fact, this amount is literally off the charts. Most graphs illustrating what given amounts of alcohol do to the body go something like this:

  • .03 – 05: — Mild impairment, including loss of concentration and balance
  • .06 – 15: — Serious impairment, including diminished judgment, vision, hearing, balance, reaction time and coordination, as well has behavioral effects.
  • .16 – .3 — Severe intoxication. At this BAC blackouts and vomiting occur, and driving is effectively impossible, though many have tried it.
  • .31 – .45 — Danger to life. Alcohol poisoning resulting in respiratory failure and coma are possible at this level, with death the result from the body’s inability to handle basic processes

That’s as far as the charts go. So what do we make of a .6? While not in the record books, it’s a number that should have left the driver clinically dead, if not absolutely dead. It’s an alcohol level that goes beyond reckless and criminal, to the point of sheer insanity.Can a dead man get a DUI? Probably not, but this near-miss will certainly lead to charges.

Why did he do it? It’s doubtful the answer would tell us anything we don’t already know about impaired driving. It’s just good to know that most people carrying that much alcohol can’t hold on to their car keys long enough to start the car. And whatever things are in store for this Iowa driver in the near future, let’s hope a set of car keys is not among them.