Deaths and injuries due to drunk driving have become a worldwide dilemma. There are still a lot of alcohol-impaired drivers going out on the road despite the warnings and stringent laws. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 30 people lose their lives every day due to drunk driving in the United States alone. This equates to one death every 48 minutes. There is an estimated $51 billion annual cost for alcohol-related crashes. Fortunately, this problem is highly preventable.
The Facts According to the CDC
• More than 40 percent of fatal driving accidents are due to drunk driving.
• In the U.S., almost 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths are due to drunk driving. This amounts to 10,839 people yearly.
• About 14 percent of traffic deaths involving children from 0 to 14 years old were due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Almost half of them died riding in vehicles with drunk drivers.
• There are 149 million self-reported cases of alcohol-impaired driving every year. However, only 1.4 million of them are arrested. That equates to less than one percent of the total.
• About 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths are associated with the use of an alcohol and drug combination.
High Risk Individuals
• Young people have a higher risk of being involved in vehicle crashes than older people at all blood alcohol concentration levels. One out of every three drivers aged 21 to 24 who were involved in fatal vehicle crashes had 0.08 percent or higher BAC levels. This equates to almost 35 percent of all cases.
• Motorcyclists are also among the groups at high risk of fatal crashes. About 29 percent of the total number of motorcyclists involved in crashes in 2009 were found to have BACs of 0.08 percent and higher. Motorcyclists aged 40 to 44 made up 44 percent of the total number of deaths of those with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.
• Drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes often have prior driving while impaired convictions.
Effective Measures to Prevent Fatal Accidents Related to Impaired Driving
• The government should actively enforce the legal drinking age law. There should also be strict implementation of zero tolerance laws for drivers under 21 years old.
• Sobriety checkpoints are also a great way to solve the problem. It has been proven that they can reduce alcohol-related accidents by 20 percent. Law enforcement officers should assess the driver’s alcohol level and stop them from driving once they exceed the limit. With this, they can ensure that there are no drunk drivers on the road.
• People who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated should undergo mandatory assessment and treatment for substance abuse. This is mainly because these people are often likely to commit the same offense all over again.
• Health organizations and other concerned agencies should actively practice promotion efforts. Doing so allows them to encourage schools and communities to participate and spread awareness about impaired driving prevention.
• There should also be strict enforcement of mandatory blood alcohol testing following any traffic crash that results in injury.
• There are also suggestions that there should be a raise in the federal and state alcohol excise tax.
• Another alternative is to reduce the BAC threshold to 0.05 percent.
Crashes due to impaired driving are highly preventable. Drivers should be responsible enough to take care of themselves and not harm other people. Drunk driving does not only lead to death or serious injury to the driver. Oftentimes, it can lead to vehicular manslaughter.
• Make plans prior to drinking. People who plan on drinking and getting drunk should always prioritize their safety when going home. It is best that they get a non-drinking driver win the group. Alternatively, they may have someone to drop them off their home or call a taxi.
• People who are non-drinkers should also consider their friends’ and family members’ safety. Instead of allowing them to drive on their own, getting their keys and driving them home is the best action to take.
• A responsible party host should insist that their drinking guests call for non-drinking drivers. It is important that they ensure that their guests arrive home safe. Otherwise, they may invite them to stay overnight. In addition, hosts should not force guests to drink alcohol, and they should have non-alcoholic drinks available.
Spotting a Drunk Driver
There are always people who get on the road intoxicated despite the warnings. These drivers pose a serious threat to other people. With this, it is best that bystanders and drivers know how to spot those who are intoxicated.
• Sudden slowing down or speeding up
• Driving at a speed slower than 10 mph under the limit
• Stopping in the middle of the road without reason
• Going in and out of lanes
• Driving with face too close to the windshield
• Following other cars closely
• Giving out signals that do not match driving actions
• Delayed responses to traffic lights and signals
• No headlights
• Driving out of the designated roadway
• Actual drinking while driving
Motorists who spot drunk drivers should maintain a safe distance from them. Drunk drivers may stop abruptly and end up causing an accident. In addition, they should avoid sending signals that may distract them or order them to stop. Personal safety is always the top priority. People who are trying to look closely at a suspected drunk driver to get their license plate may also end up crashing. With this, it is best to report the incident to the police and stay focused on driving instead of the drunk driver.
Reporting Drunk Drivers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages everyone to report drunk drivers. Doing so allows them to save the drivers from getting into accidents that may lead them or other people to serious injuries and even death.
• Call 911 and report the drunk driver. There is no need to disclose your name.
• Make sure to take down the vehicle’s location, direction where the vehicle is heading and the name of streets and roads. Include this information in the report.
• Provide a complete vehicle description with the license plate number, model and car color.
• Provide a complete description of how the vehicle is being driven.
• Never try to stop or detain the driver. Only professionals are allowed to do that.