On the night of 3rd February, 2007, Jane Cuthbert from the state of Missouri lost her two sons in a tragic motor accident. She was buying new supplies from a grocery shop, and because she was in a hurry she left her two sons, Brian and Ken, in the car. As she stepped out of the grocery shop, she saw a blue minivan ram into her stationary car. Her two boys, including the driver of the minivan who was apparently drunk, died on impact. Since then, she has gone into rehabilitation twice because of severe depression.
Although this story is fiction, it is eerily similar to frequent true life stories across the United States as this monster called “drunk-driving” continues to claim many lives. Impaired driving that arises from consumption of alcoholic beverages is referred to as “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “drunk-driving. ” Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. According to statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO), “drunk-driving is the leading cause of fatal road accidents” (qtd. in Overbey 78). What is unfortunate is that all accidents can be prevented.
Though the numbers of alcohol-induced crashes have dropped significantly for the last 30 years, the figures are still high and, therefore, a lot has to be done to bring these figures down. Many countries have come up with means of addressing drunk-driving; the most common method involves determining the maximum allowed blood alcohol concentration (BAC) (Moskowitz and Burns 12). The maximum BAC is used as the foundation of campaigns targeted at reducing alcohol-impaired driving. The BAC values are different from one country to another and are dependent on several factors including culture.
The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of adults, in the United States, is below 0. 08%. A BAC concentration of 0. 08% or above is considered illegal. Drunk drivers are more likely to cause accidents than sober drivers because alcohol reduces the reaction time of drivers by up to 30% (Moskowitz and Burns 12). It blurs their vision and diminishes their ability to read traffic lights correctly. Research studies have also confirmed that crashes involving drunk drivers are more fatal than crashes involving sober drivers (Cherpitel et al. 169).
This has been linked to the fact that drunk drivers rarely use seat belts and have a high tendency of exceeding the speed limit. In addition to high BAC levels, there are other factors that increase the likelihood of a road crash, for example, age, gender and previous DUI conviction. Young drivers are at a higher risk of alcohol-impaired crashes than older drivers. Drivers with a high BAC content tend to be males between the age of 25 to 35 (Overbey 17). This could be because the youth like taking risks and are more likely to exceed speed limits compared to their older counterparts.
The limited driving experience could also be a factor that increases the risk. Regarding gender, men seem to be at a higher risk of crashing compared to women (Moskowitz and Burns 13). However, a trend of elderly women drinking and driving is possible in the future. Additionally, repeat offenders of driving under the influence (DUI) have also been found to be involved in fatal road accidents. A majority of drivers with BAC of 0. 08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were found to have had previous DUI convictions (Bergen and Shults 1351).
In Canada, four people lose their lives every day on Canada's roads through the action of drunk-drivers, while a further 190 are injured (Dougherty). The figures are much higher in the United States. A person dies every 48 minutes in the United States from drunk driving. This adds up to 30 deaths every single day. In “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults,” Gwen Bergen and Ruth Shults report the following: Approximately one third of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involve alcohol-impaired driving. In 2009, a total of 10,839 persons died in crashes in which at least one driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of ?
0. 08 g/dL, the illegal level for adult drivers in the United States. The number of children between the ages of 0-14 years who lost their lives as a direct consequence of drunk-driving was 181. In the same year, only 1. 4 million drivers were arrested out of the 4 million self-reported cases of drunken-driving. (1351) Literally millions of people are driving intoxicated under the influence of alcohol in the United States. Only 4 million cases were self-reported in 2009 and these findings do not account for unreported drunk-driving cases. From a high of 60% in 1982, alcohol fatalities have dropped to 31% in 2010 for all traffic deaths.
In terms of mileage, the fatalities have dropped to 0. 45 per 100 million miles traveled in 2010 from a high of 1. 64 in 1982 (Cherpitel et al. 169). In other words, the number of crashes arising from drunk-driving dropped to 112 million in 2010 compared to 210 million in 1982. However, no decline of alcohol consumption was recorded in the same period. The cause of the decline has not been determined, but possible causes have been identified. Some attribute the decline to the economic downturn, while others attribute the same to changes in drinking locations, with most Americans drinking at home; where driving is not required.
More recently, the number of deaths arising from drunk driving dropped by 20% from 13, 491 in 2006 to 10,839 in 2009 (Cherpitel et al. 169). However, the number of deaths involving only single drunk-drivers has remained the same accounting for approximately one third of the fatalities. At least two thirds of fatalities involved the drunk-drivers themselves. Men accounted for 82% and 81% of all fatalities involving drunken driving crashes in 2009 and 2010 respectively (Overbey 195). Drunk-driving has many causes. Among these causes are peer pressure, parties, self miscalculation and downright carelessness.
The first cause of drunk-driving is alcohol parties. Experts estimate that over 18 million Americans are alcoholic and that over half this number gets drunk while in parties (“Drinking and Driving”). Who can resist a party where lots of alcohol is flowing freely? One could bet few people can resist such a temptation. The second cause of drunk-driving is self miscalculation. Many Americans think that driving while a little tipsy does no harm; drunk-driving is equated with consumption of more than 5 bottles of alcohol. “I’ve only taken one bottle.
I am still as good as sober,” is a common statement by the alcohol-impaired driver. The most unfortunate thing is that these drivers rely on the opinions of their friends who are also drunk to decide if they can drive or not. Of course, this information is unreliable (“Drinking and Driving”). Another cause of drunk-driving is the lack of adequate preparation; some drivers do not intend to get drunk. They go to a bar and get carried away, drinking more than they can handle. When drunk, they cannot think of other safe means of transport; and because they do not want to leave their cars behind, they drive home while intoxicated.
They do not think of other options, such as calling a cab or a family member to drive them home (“Drinking and Driving”). Alcohol impairs a person's judgment and more often, the people involved are too proud to admit this. Serial drunk-drivers see nothing wrong with driving while drunk because they think no harm can come upon them. They think that, after all, they have been driving while intoxicated for several months or years and hence are used to the situation. Little do they know about the dangers of their actions. They only realize their follies when something bad happens to them.
The other significant cause of drunk-driving is peer pressure. This is especially true for the youth. Young adults like showing off to their friends how much alcohol they can take. The desire to impress takes precedence over road safety. Once they get drunk, they refuse to be driven home because they do not want others to drive their cars. They are too proud to be driven home. They also refuse to use other means of transport because they consider it as inconvenient (Dougherty). The measures that have been put in place to curb drunk-driving are intended to change the behavior of drunk-drivers and sustain responsible driving.
These measures include public education, legislation, improving current road infrastructure and compelling DUI convicts to go for rehabilitation. To begin with, public education to enlighten drivers about the dangers and consequences of drunken-driving should be conducted with increasing frequency. Mainstream media outlets should be included in campaigns because they reach a wider audience. The programs should include educational schools and driver training schools. Outlets licensed to sell alcohol should be taught about the importance of designated drivers. Designated drivers could save thousands of lives annually.
Outlets licensed to sell alcohol should also be empowered to intervene whenever they think a person is too drunk to drive. Another way of decreasing drunk-driving is by use of laws. Legislation is one of the most important interventions in tackling drunk-driving. Legislation involves many mechanisms such as the use of ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints and implementing minimum drinking age limits (Bergen and Shults 1356). Ignition interlocks should be installed in cars of serial offenders. They could normally be installed after the driver has been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) two times.
Ignition interlocks require drivers to blow into a device which tests for blood alcohol percentages. The device is connected to the car and controls the ignition of the engine. The driver is required to take a breathalyzer test via the ignition interlock system to enable the vehicle to start. If the driver does not pass the breathalyzer test then the vehicle will not start. The device could result in a significant decrease in re-arrests of serial drunk-drivers and hence, be one of the most effective prevention methods. The use of sobriety checkpoints can save thousands of lives.
Drivers are stopped randomly at the sobriety checkpoints, and their BAC levels are checked. Sobriety checkpoints should be expanded because they have been found to decrease drunk-driving related crashes and fatalities by 20% (Changoiwala). It not only increases the number of arrests but also deters would-be drunk-drivers. The aim of any police intervention is not to arrest the culprits but rather to create the impression that those who do will be caught. For the success of this program, the number of personnel in the police force should be increased. They should also be adequately trained and equipped (Changoiwala).
The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) criminalizes the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 21. The MLDA should be maintained at 21 because research has shown that lowering MLDA increases the risk of alcohol-impaired crashes. Quebec in Canada has enforced a no-alcohol policy on drivers under the age of 21. Offenders will face a suspension of their licenses if they fail to comply. This was necessitated by the fact that drivers under the age of 21 account for 50% of drunken-driving fatalities (Dougherty). The next significant way of curbing drunk-driving is improving the roads.
Improved road infrastructure can also help to reduce road accidents, for example, through incorporating raised lane markers, which awaken inattentive drivers by emitting sound when driven over. Corrugated rails on the outer edges of the roads can also serve the same purpose. In addition, miniature sized speed bumps can be installed in black spots and especially in sections where school children cross the road. Randal Gordon is a senior member of an Alcoholics Anonymous group in Lancaster, California. Gordon strongly feels that enrolling DUI offenders in Alcohol Anonymous sessions can do a lot in curbing drunken-driving.
Since joining the group, he has gone for 15 years without touching alcohol. Therefore, the proposal that laws should be enacted to compel drunk-drivers to enroll in a rehabilitation center is significant. Their licenses should be withdrawn until the concerned authorities are satisfied that they have sufficiently been reformed. Tackling alcohol-impaired driving should focus more on preventive than punitive measures. Therefore, we should avoid ineffective methods such as jailing, fines and increased taxation on alcohol. While appearing to be popular, fines and incarceration have done little to discourage drunken-driving.
“Most offenders don’t care about the fine” (Changoiwala). On the other hand, increasing alcohol on tax has done virtually nothing to stem the vice. Research has shown that heavy drinkers are not deterred by the cost. Drunk-driving is a far more complex problem than it appears, and as such solutions need to be equally complex. This requires a comprehensive and a flexible approach which takes into consideration the wider implications of alcohol abuse. For that reason, any solution must consider the drinking patterns of different groups and intervene at that time.
Therefore, cooperation from all the sectors concerned is paramount to arriving at a solution. The government, academic institutions, the alcohol industry and community-based organizations, should join hands in solving this menace. The experiences of other countries have shown that collaboration is the key to sustainable reduction of drunken-driving related accidents. Word Count: 2,276 Works Cited Bergen, Gwen, and Ruth Shults. “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults. ” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60. 39 (2011): 1351-1356. Print.
Changoiwala, Puja. “Many Drunk Drivers Caught. ” Hindustan Times Mumbai. Hindustan Times, 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. Cherpitel, Cheryl J. , et al. “Alcohol-Related Injury and Driving While Intoxicated: A Risk Function Analysis of Two Alcohol-Related Events in the 2000 and 2005 National Alcohol Surveys. ” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 36. 3 (2010): 168-174. EBSCOhost. Web. 21 Apr. 2012 Dougherty, Kevin. “It's Now 'Zero Alcohol' for Drivers 21 and Under: Young Motorists Face License Suspension When They Consume Even One Drop of Booze.
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