It has been often said that drinking and driving don’t mix. Several government agencies have been continuously conducting information drives about the dangers of drunk driving. But the sad fact remains that people still do drink and drive.
Drunk driving also called driving under the influence of alcohol or drinking and driving or simply drink-driving is defined as the act of operating a vehicle, whether motor or human-powered such as the bicycle, after consuming alcohol or drugs to the extent which affects the individual’s mental and motor skills (“Driving Under the Influence”).
Aside from driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of other drugs, a third offense which also falls under this category but considered more dangerous is that of driving under the combined influence of drug and alcohol. Although it is important to note that the drugs mentioned are not confined to those that are illegal. These drugs can be those that are lawfully prescribed or bought over the counter for particular medications (“Driving Under the Influence”). These drugs which are taken by certain individuals as medication can prove to be fatal when combined with alcohol.
Why do people continue to ignore the fact that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs lead to accidents? There are a number of reasons that one can offer to try to explain the behavior of these drunk drivers. One, they still have to encounter the accidents themselves. Two, the penalties for these offenses may not be sufficient to deter would-be offenders. Three, probable ignorance of existing driving rules and regulations. And four, the shocking realities and statistics arising from accidents caused by drunk driving probably do not markedly register to these offenders because of inadequate or lack of access to the disturbing figures of accidents caused by drunk driving.
If this is the case, then consider these facts and figures on drunk driving.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, an agency of the US government under the Department of Health and Human Services, accidents that are alcohol-related kills one person every thirty-one minutes and causes injury every two minutes (“Impaired Driving”). Imagine the magnitude of these figures. Death in every half-hour and injury in every two minutes caused by drunk driving. Deaths and injuries in these statistics are either the drivers themselves or, more unfortunately the pedestrians. Statistically speaking, drunk driving could cause 48 deaths and hundreds of injuries in a single day.
The hundreds of injuries in a single day when computed to a single year would translate into over a million people that were injured because of alcohol-related accidents (“Drinking and Driving Data”). Maybe these irresponsible drunk drivers are not capable of understanding the implication of these injuries and its incremental cost in the long term.
On the other hand, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts the number of injured drivers due to alcohol and drug use to 18 to 20 percent. The agency also cited that drug-related vehicular accidents are on the increase compared to drinking-related accidents (“Drinking & Driving”).
In the same article published on its website, NCIPC claimed that in 2005, 16,885 people died in the United States caused by alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. This figure represents 39 percent of all traffic-related deaths (“Impaired Driving”). That is almost 50 percent of all traffic-related deaths. More than 16,000 people would have been still alive if not for drunk driving. These figures are staggering and one cannot but cringe at the number of deaths caused by these accidents, and all because of alcohol or drugs mixed with driving.
The same article further said that more than 200 child passengers aged 14 and younger died because of alcohol-related accidents. The child passengers were riding with drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Another 48 children at the same age bracket mentioned above were killed either as pedestrians or riding bicycles that were hit or sideswiped by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs (“Impaired Driving”). These children were struck down at the prime of their lives by irresponsible drivers. It is very sad to think that these child passengers put their trust on their elders who turned out to be irresponsible thereby causing their deaths. It is very hard to understand that there are people who would put children at risk by not being responsible enough to forego drinking knowing that these children have put their trust on them.
The NHTSA, on its statistics on drunk driving, cited that male drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents compared to female drivers. Also, younger people are more prone to be involved in these accidents compared to older people. Accordingly, in 2005, 16 percent of young drivers with ages ranging from 16 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle accidents were under the influence of alcohol (“Impaired Driving”). Another interesting fact among the young drivers is that men ages 18 to 20 were recorded to have been influenced by alcohol while driving more frequently compared to any other age group. This is interesting because the age range of 18 to 20 is under the legal drinking age (“Impaired Driving”).
Motorcycle accident deaths, on the other hand, recorded that 30 percent were caused by alcohol influence. Also, motorcyclists, with age range from 40 to 44, were recorded to have the highest percentage of fatalities involving alcohol-related crashes (“Impaired Driving”).
These figures show that alcohol-related accidents happen in virtually all age groups and all genders. Apparently, irresponsible drivers come from different age levels and genders beside the fact that, considering the age brackets cited in these statistics, these people can be considered to be literate and probably have attained, to say the least, some degree of education. If the people getting involved in alcohol-related vehicular accidents are considered to be literate and educated, what does that say of the society, or for that matter, the country, they reside. Educated people are supposed to be responsible people due to the nature of their training acquired from schools. It is quite sad, indeed, to think that even people who are supposed to be learned and knowledgeable getting involved in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.
Translating these accidents, whether they are deaths or injuries, into financial terms, the costs are astounding. Each year, about $15 billion are spent due to alcohol-related accidents in the United States (“Impaired Driving”).
So much money is being spent because of irresponsible drunk-driving. Imagine how many other government projects could have been funded with $15 billion. Imagine how many lives may have been saved from these accidents.
The figures cited above are very staggering indeed. And the fact that these deaths and injuries were caused by alcohol- and drug-related vehicular accidents and not by some terrorist acts makes it more appalling. If these motor vehicle drivers have been more responsible not only for themselves but for the sake of their passengers and/or the pedestrians, all these senseless deaths and injuries would have prevented.
And if these reasons were not enough, consider the death of Princess Diana of Britain. The recent findings of the French authorities tasked to conduct an investigation on the incident mentioned that the driver of the vehicle where Princess Diana and her companions were traveling in was found to have high blood alcohol content. The authorities found out that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol by testing the blood of the victim. They found out that the driver’s blood alcohol content was way above the accepted levels.
Granted that their vehicle was driving fast to avoid the unscrupulous photographers taking photos of the couple inside the car, which some claim was the reason why the vehicle got out of control and crashed. But it cannot also be denied that the driver’s intoxication contributed in part, or others can claim not only in part but the main reason, why the car crashed. To be assigned to drive a very important person meant that a driver is a very experienced one and is expected to be able to handle unexpected road incidents such as what happened in the crash. If the driver carrying Princess Diana had been sober and free from the influence of alcohol, it may be assumed that his motor and mental skills would have been very alert and could have responded appropriately to an unanticipated incident.
Instead, because of the high level of alcohol found on the driver’s blood, it is safe to assume that it affected his driving skills. His judgment may have been impaired resulting in the death of one of the most popular icons of her time.
It may be unfair to pass judgment and put all the blame on the driver of Princess Diana’s vehicle but the evidence as reported by the authorities cannot simply be ignored. Drunk-driving causes accidents and claim lives, whether one is a popular figure or a simple citizen.
Even respected Hollywood celebrities, supposed to be role models for their legions of followers, were apprehended due to drunk-driving.
What must it take for people to fully realize the wisdom of this oft-repeated statement: When you drive, don’t drink. When you drink, don’t drive. A very simple but very straightforward reminder to motor vehicle drivers to avoid drunk-driving accidents. Or is not enough? Does one have to experience it first-hand to understand? Maybe, but then, by that time, it may be too late.
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