Introduction Alcohol is enjoyed by many throughout the world. As one of the most popular legal drugs to sell in the United States, it has produced massive revenue for party stores, restaurants, and even major retail stores. Although there are some definite benefits to distributing alcohol in the U. S. , there are also many negative consequences. It has become very difficult to monitor the legal drinking age of 21, and as a result minors are gaining access to alcohol and drinking much earlier in life than they should be. Another significant problem is that not only do minors drink irresponsibly, but many adults as well.
One of the biggest problems related to irresponsible drinking is driving while intoxicated (DWI). Fatality rates related to DWI’s are astronomical. According to the data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 1990 alone, 20,083 people were killed as a result of alcohol related crashes. In 1995, fatalities were still estimated at about 17,274. In 1998, DWI related death rates still amounted to 15,936 (“Drunk Driving,” n. d. ). Although these numbers did decrease slightly each year, this trend did not continue indefinitely.
In 2003, numbers were back up to 17,105. There was a 2. 4% reduction in fatalities by 2004, with 16,694 alcohol-related deaths. (“. 08 BAC,” n. d. ). A poll conducted in 1996 concluded that impaired drivers accounted for only one percent of those driving on the road during nighttime and weekends (“Drunk Driving,” n. d. ). These astounding statistics should be of particular concern to our public. This affects not only those who are driving impaired, but also anyone who is on the road with them at that time, which includes not only drivers but passengers as well.
This means that anyone who is transported on our roads is at risk of being injured or killed by these drunk drivers. In addition, the annual expense to the U. S. for DWI related accidents is about $51 billion (National Center, n. d. ). It is clear that attention needs to be given to this detrimental topic and something should be done to secure our safety and our children and families safety as well. In response to this profound problem, laws in the U. S. have been changed in an attempt to reduce the number of DWI’s. As a result of implementing these new laws, one would expect to see major changes in drunk driving occurrences.
Taking these factors into consideration, my hypothesis is that the number of DWI-related fatalities in the Unites States will significantly decrease within the next five years. Law changes 0. 10% to 0. 08% BAC law. One of the ways alcohol intoxication is determined is through blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. This determines how much alcohol is in one’s bloodstream. It is considered one of the most accurate measures of impairment. A breathalyzer is the device used by police to detect this level when one is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The previous legal limit for driving in the U.
S. was a 0. 10% BAC level. Due to the intense cost to the U. S. and the staggering amounts of deaths related to DWI’s, more stringent laws regarding blood alcohol content (BAC) levels while driving were implemented. “In October 2000, the President signed the Fiscal Year 2001 transportation appropriations bill, requiring states to pass the 0. 08% BAC law by October 2003 or risk losing the federal highway construction funds. As of October 1, 2003, 45 states and the District of Columbia had enacted a 0. 08% BAC legislation” (National Center, n. d. ). “As of 2005, all states will have passed a .
08 BAC per se law and the final one takes effect then” (“. 08 BAC,” n. d. ). Decrease in DWI fatalities since . 08 BAC law. Passing the . 08 BAC law has made a big difference in the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities. A study conducted in Illinois found that when . 08 BAC laws were strictly adhered to, there was a 13. 7% decrease in the number of impaired driving fatalities. In addition, it was determined that the lower an individuals BAC levels were, the less likely they were to get in an accident (“. 08 BAC,” n. d. ). A review of the effectiveness of changing the . 10% BAC law to a .
08% BAC law published by Traffic Injury Prevention showed that when . 08 laws were implemented, there was a seven percent decrease in DWI-related fatalities. This is the equivalent of about 500 lives saved per year (National Center, n. d. ). Sobriety checkpoints. One proven way to reduce the number of impaired driving crashes has been the use of sobriety checkpoints. These are places where officers set up traffic stops and systematically choose drivers to evaluate their level of intoxication. The goal of these checkpoints is to strike fear into the impaired drivers by intensifying their perceived risk of being arrested.
When sobriety checkpoints were implemented, impaired driving crashes were reduced by approximately 20 percent. These findings were consistently effective, regardless of whether the checkpoints were maintained only short-term or for several years. This concludes that over time the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints does not weaken (National Center, n. d. ). In light of the positive effects seen with use of checkpoints, the government “recently passed a five-year federal highway bill that includes a $29 million a year authorization for frequent and highly publicized sobriety checkpoints and seat belt mobilizations” (“Second year,” n.d. ).
These changes should make an enormous contribution to the decline of DWI occurrences. Child Abuse Laws. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has conducted studies regarding children and drunk driving related fatalities. The findings have revealed that almost two-thirds of the children killed in DWI accidents were riding with the impaired person. Less than twenty percent of these children were restrained properly in their seats. As the impaired drivers BAC levels increased, the children’s safety restraints decreased.
As a result of this, legislators in many states have initiated new bills that would include particular punishments under state child abuse laws for those who drive impaired with children in the car (National Center, n. d). Minimum legal drinking age laws (MLDA). Special provisions have been set up for any under age drinkers who are caught driving. This is known as minimum legal drinking age law or the “zero tolerance” law. Anyone under 21 years of age who is caught driving with any alcohol in their system, even a . 01 BAC level, will be charged with a DWI.
If charged, the driver will be subject to all the same punishments that a legal age drinker with a . 08 BAC level or higher would be sentenced to (“DWI’s,” 2005). Harsher punishments. Immediate revocation of drivers license. Once one is charged with a DWI, their license is immediately revoked for 30 days. After ten days, they can apply for a limited driving privilege, but in order to qualify a valid driver’s license must be possessed, no pending charges can exist, license has to have been revoked for a minimum of 10 days, and mandatory substance abuse court ordered assessments have been completed (“DWI’s,” 2005).
Costs, fines, and community service requirements. In order to obtain driving privileges, one must complete a Substance Abuse Assessment and pay a $50 fee to do so. The person charged must bring a Driving History report which is $7. The documents have to be filed with a Civil Clerk which costs $70. Court costs alone amount to at least $100 and an additional fine of $200 for Level Five offenders, which is the least serious all of five levels. There is also a $50 fee to restore the driver’s license and a $200 community service fee, not to mention the cost of an attorney to represent you.
On top of all these fines, which should be enough to make someone think twice about driving impaired, for a level five offender twenty-four hours of community service is mandatory within 30 days. Multi-faceted community-based approaches. Mothers against drunk driving (MADD) rated a survey conducted in 2000 which graded states on how they enforced DWI’s and found the following results. Inhabitants of the states which scored a “D” had sixty percent more reported incidents of drunk driving than those which received an “A”. These grades were given based on prevention measures from 11 different categories.
These included “DUI legislation, political leadership, statistics and records availability, resources devoted to enforcing DUI laws, administrative penalties for criminal sanctions, regulatory control and alcohol availability, youth DUI legislation, prevention and education, and victim compensation and support. ” Due to these findings, communities are being strongly encouraged by MADD and other organizations to implement strong community-based programs which are vigorously enforced. One of these things would include mandatory attendance to MADD meetings for a set amount of time determined by a judge (National Center, n. d. ).
Adjustment time. Although there have been budget increases to allow for sobriety checkpoints and seat belt mobilizations, and more media attention has been drawn to the consequences of driving while intoxicated, many people still do not realize what a significant problem DWI’s are in our country. Much of the public remains indifferent to this problem until it affects them personally. There is still a lot of confusion over what is considered impaired driving (National Highway, n. d. ). A study conducted by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reviewed a span of 16 years of fatal crashes encompassing every state in the U.
S. Three laws were evaluated in relation to the DWI rates; . 10% BAC law, . 08% BAC law, and license revocation laws. Results concluded that these three laws were significantly related to the decreasing numbers of DWI-related fatalities during that time frame. It was determined that not just one law, but the three of them in conjunction is what led to such a long-term downward trend (Voas, Tippetts, & Fell, 2000). This study supports the position that the changing of many laws over time has a positive effect on the number of impaired drivers, but that it sometimes takes several years before a noteworthy difference is visible.
People need time to adjust to the new laws and punishments and see what kind of effects they are having before a major change can be expected. Reasons for a lack of decreased DWI fatalities Repeat offenders. Although there are so many reasons to expect a decrease in DWI rates and related deaths in the future, there are also a few reasons that there may not be a marked decline. Even though extensive measures have been taken to deter individuals from drinking and driving, statistics show that when a driver has a .
08% BAC level or higher they are nine times more likely than non-impaired drivers to have a prior DWI conviction (National Center, n. d. ). Upon review from twelve different states, data demonstrated that about one-third of the DWI arrests are repeat offenses (“Drunk driving,” n. d. ) Uncertainty of alcohol effects. Another possible reason that there may not be a noteworthy decline in DWI fatalities over the next five years is that many people do not understand the effects that just a small amount of alcohol has on their body. They also do not know the amount they can drink before reaching the new . 08% BAC legal limit for driving.
When alcohol is consumed, the body absorbs it and disburses it into the bloodstream to evenly mix with the water. Body weight consists of approximately two-thirds water, meaning that a lighter person has less water in their body than someone heavier would. For this reason, a lighter person will reach a higher blood alcohol level with much lower alcohol consumption. Since women have more fatty tissue than men, they will achieve a higher BAC level than a man with the same body weight. Small people have less water in their body so they are also more easily affected by alcohol and will have a higher BAC level when tested after drinking.
Another contributing factor is the amount of food in one’s system, which slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream (“Facts of,” n. d). Most believe that alcohol is a stimulant, but in fact it is a depressant. While giving the impression of being stimulated and light-headed, it is actually slowing down the nervous system and making the brain less alert, therefore making one less inhibited. The functions being affected are “self-awareness and advanced planning and impulse control” (“Facts of,” n. d).
Due to the multiple effects that alcohol has on functioning, including those not listed here, it becomes very dangerous to drive after drinking. Even at a . 08 level, all drivers evidence impairment in their abilities. As BAC levels increases the extent of impairment also rises and makes driving an even more lethal action. Impaired drivers are more likely to drive recklessly and not properly use seatbelts, increasing their risk of injury or death. With a . 08 BAC critical driving skills are affected such as judging speed and distance, staying in the correct lane, concentration, stopping on time, etc.
At this rate, one is 11 times more likely to be in a fatal crash than a sober driver. Considering all the extenuating factors involved in reaching a . 08 BAC level, it could take an individual quite a bit of time and experience with drinking before learning what they are capable of having to stay within the legal limits for driving. For this reason alone, there may continue to be numerous DWI’s. Conclusion As noted throughout this paper, drinking and driving has become a major problem in the United States. It has cost the U. S. billions of dollars annually in related expenses, and crashes and fatalities have become a real cause for concern.
While this paper was not meant to be exhaustive, the major changes and issues in the field were discussed. Realizing that all of the contributing factors that may decrease DWI rates were not included, one can see just from the few topics addressed that profound changes have taken place in this area and have had encouraging results. Although DWI fatality rates remain high, new law changes have had a very positive effect on reducing the number of drunk driving accidents. Some of the most effective new laws, such as going from 0. 10% BAC levels to 0.
08% and sobriety checkpoints have contributed significantly to the reduction in DWI accidents and deaths. Harsher punishments have served as a major deterrent against impaired driving in the past, and as more examples are set in the future and these punishments continue to be increasingly enforced, one would expect to see the number of DWI-related fatalities decrease significantly within the next five years. Our country has come a long way in the fight against drunk driving, and with the proper enforcement we should all be able to look forward to a safer future on our roads. References
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08 BAC per se – Issue Brief. Retrieved August 30,2006, from http://www.madd. org/news/0,1056,7584,00. html MADD Online. (n. d. ). Second year decline in alcohol-related traffic fatality numbers promising. Retrieved August 30, 2006, from http://www. madd. org/news/10008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n. d. ). You drink and drive. You lose. Retrieved August 19, 2006, from http://www. nhtsa. dot. gov/people/outreach/safesobr/ydydyl/imp_drive. html Voas, R. , Tippetts, A. , and Fell, J. (2000). The relationship of alcohol safety laws to drinking drivers in fatal crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention; 32(4): 483-492.