In the United States, alcohol is the number one drug of choice. Almost every grocery store sells beer and wine. Liquor stores are abundant in most towns and cities. A great many restaurants offer alcoholic beverages. Society accepts alcoholic beverages as the norm at almost any function or gathering. With so much alcohol being sold and consumed daily, it is evident there will be severe repercussions of some type, especially when it comes to impaired driving.
Unfortunately, alcohol-related vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States. For example, according to M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving):
“In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.”
Furthermore, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
- Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
- In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
- Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
- Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
- Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use. However, other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.
These numbers reveal an alarming reality that we, as a society, are contributing to every time we drink and drive.
What Can be Done to Prevent Impaired Driving?
Apart from the dangers to innocent travelers on our highways, impaired driving has other impacts on society in the form of economic costs. For instance, the costs of medical care and lost productivity due to alcohol-related injuries exceeded $80 billion in a one-year period. The costs vary from state to state, therefore, each state needs to implement policies and interventions that work for their particular situation. For this reason, the MV PICCS tool is now available in all states.
The MV PICCS (Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator can help decision makers measure the cost-effectiveness, for different states, of intervention policies to reduce driving while intoxicated.
Also, according to the CDC, other measures are in effect such as:
- Alcohol ignition interlock: a device that prevents a vehicle from starting until the driver has blown into a tube to prove sobriety.
- Sobriety checkpoint: a designated place where police officers stop cars to check for intoxicated drivers.
- License plate impoundment: a driver convicted of DWI must surrender the license plate of his or her vehicle.
- Limits on DWI diversion and plea agreements: rules that prevent DWI arrestees from diverting cases or pleading out of charges.
- Vehicle impoundment: confiscation of a DWI offender’s vehicle for a period, after which the offender either reclaims or surrenders his or her vehicle.
Regardless of all the efforts to prevent drunk driving, there will always be people who take the risk anyway, endangering themselves and others. Stricter punishment has made a slight difference, but the numbers are still too high.
If you are interested in taking part in any of the many prevention programs across the country, contact local M.A.D.D. chapters, the CDC, or any other organization that is dedicated to alcohol awareness and prevention. Additionally, if you or someone you know needs help for alcohol abuse problems, call us today and find out how we can help.