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What's a "vehicle"?

What you don’t know about drinking and driving laws

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader

2012-05-21


The next time you meet someone or hear of someone who has been arrested for drinking and driving, don’t be so quick to judge. Do you drink on occasion? Do you drive? If so, there’s a strong chance that at some point in your driving career that you drove either while intoxicated or while over the legal limit. Good luck might be the only thing that separated you from they guy who got arrested.

We all know that alcohol and vehicles don’t mix. People understand that driving after drinking is a bad idea that can lead to serious and sometimes deadly consequences. My purpose here isn’t to tell you something you already know. Instead, I’d like to point out a few things about drinking and driving laws that maybe you didn’t know.

In Indiana, a person who operates a “vehicle” either while intoxicated or with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least eight-hundredths (0.08) grams of alcohol per one hundred (100) milliliters of the person’s blood or two hundred ten (210) liters of the person’s breath commits a crime. A person can violate the law if he operates a vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance or its metabolite in his body. Unless you submit to a certified breath test or blood test, how do you know your alcohol concentration?

I’ll get into “intoxication” and “alcohol concentration equivalents” in another article. Today, my focus is simply on what constitutes a “vehicle” for purposes of the drinking and driving laws.

I.C. 9-13-2-196(f) provides that a vehicle, for purposes of the operating while intoxicated laws, means a device that is used for transportation over land or air. Cars, trucks, mopeds and motorcycles are most certainly “vehicles.” So too are all-terrain vehicles, golf carts, go-carts and dune buggies. Helicopters and airplanes count. Even hot air balloons appear to fit within the definition. Based on the broad definition of “vehicle,” it appears any type of device (think bicycle or snow skis) used for transportation could apply. Remarkably, there is one specific type of “vehicle” that is expressly exempted from the statute: the personal assistive mobility device. Seriously? If those things are exempt then so should wheelchairs.

In case you are wondering about motor boats, you can’t drink and drive one of those either. Impaired motor boating is illegal, but boats aren’t considered “vehicles” since they are used for transportation on water.

Ever had a couple of drinks while playing golf and driving the cart? How about finishing off a few beers before jumping on the tractor? Remember moving your car into the garage after your last guest left your party? None of these “vehicle” operation scenarios involves a highway or public roadway. But the impaired driving laws are far-reaching. A person can be arrested for impaired driving even though he never left his property.

Whether it’s your driveway or the fairway, you could be breaking the law if you’ve had too much to drink.

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