Driving Under the Influence
"It Begins With You!!"
A safety message from the Tallahassee Police Department - Every single injury and death caused by drunk driving is totally preventable. Unfortunately, drunk drivers cause over twenty percent of all traffic fatalities in the United State each year. Thus, drunk driving remains a serious national problem that tragically affects thousands of victims annually.
Occurrence and Consequences
It's easy to forget that dry statistics represent real people and real lives. In 2004, 7 traffic homicide investigations were conducted by the Tallahassee Police Department (1 alcohol related). In 2005, we conducted an astounding 23 traffic homicide investigations (8 were alcohol related). In 2006, the number dropped significantly to 8 (2 were alcohol related). Although these numbers suggest a decline, it is important to note that:
- Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes (NHTSA 2006).
- During 2005, 16,885 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, representing 39% of all traffic-related deaths (NHTSA 2006).
In 2005, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics (Department of Justice 2005). That's less than one percent of the 159 million self-reported episodes of alcohol–impaired driving among U.S. adults each year (Quinlan et al. 2005).
Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are generally used in combination with alcohol (Jones et al. 2003).
More than half of the 414 child passengers' ages 14 and younger that died in alcohol-related crashes during 2005 were riding with the drinking driver (NHTSA 2006).
- In 2005, 48 children age 14 years and younger who were killed as pedestrians or peda-cyclists were struck by impaired drivers (NHTSA 2006).
Cost: Each year, alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost about $51 billion (Blincoe et al. 2002).
Groups at Risk
- Male drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes are almost twice as likely as female drivers to be intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater (NHTSA 2006). It is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
At all levels of blood alcohol concentration, the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people (Zador et al. 2000). In 2005, 16% of all drivers age 16 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking alcohol (NHTSA 2006).
• Young men ages 18 to 20 (under the legal drinking age) reported driving while impaired more frequently than any other age group (Shults et al. 2002, Quinlan et al. 2005).
- Among motorcycle drivers killed in fatal crashes, 30% have BACs of 0.08% or greater (Paulozzi et al. 2004).
- Nearly half of the alcohol-impaired motorcyclists killed each year are age 40 or older, and motorcyclists ages 40 to 44 years have the highest percentage of fatalities with BACs of 0.08% or greater (Paulozzi et al. 2004).
- Of the 1,946 traffic fatalities among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2005, 21% involved alcohol (NHTSA 2006).
- Among drivers involved in fatal crashes, those with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher were nine times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers who had not consumed alcohol (NHTSA 2006).
While society has done much to improve highway safety, you can do much to protect yourself. Don't drink and drive and don't ride with anyone who has too much to drink. Remember, it is usually themselves and their passengers who are harmed by drunk drivers. The risk of collision for high BAC drivers is several hundred times higher than for a non-drinking driver.
Personal Safety Checklist:
- Volunteer to be a designated driver.
- Always use a safety seat belt.
- Use four-lane highways whenever possible.
- Avoid rural roads.
- Avoid travel after midnight (especially on Fridays and Saturdays).
- Drive defensively.
- Choose vehicles with airbags.
- Never use illegal drugs. Illicit drugs are involved in a large proportion of traffic fatalities.
- Never drive when fatigued. The dangers posed when fatigued are similar to those when intoxicated. A drunk or fatigued driver has slowed reactions and impaired judgment. And a driver who nods off at the wheel has no reactions and no judgment! Drivers who drift off cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths each and every year.
- Don't use a car phone, put on make-up, comb your hair, or eat while driving. Drivers using cellular phones are four times more likely to have an accident than other drivers.
- Steer clear of aggressive drivers. Aggressive drivers may be responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.
Volunteer to be a designated driver. Never condone or approve of excessive alcohol consumption. Intoxicated behavior is potentially dangerous and never amusing.
Don't ever let your friends drive drunk. Take their keys, have them stay the night, have them ride home with someone else, call a cab, or do whatever else is necessary - but don't let them drive!
Having a Party? Be a good host
- Create a setting conducive to easy, comfortable socializing: soft, gentle music, low levels of noise, comfortable seating. This encourages conversation and social interaction rather than heavy drinking.
- Serve food before beginning to serve drinks. This de-emphasizes the importance of alcohol and also sends the message that intoxication is not desirable.
- Have a responsible bartender. If you plan to ask a friend or relative to act as bartender, make sure that person is not a drink pusher who encourages excessive consumption.
- Don't have an "open bar." A responsible person needs to supervise consumption to ensure that no one drinks too much. You have both a moral and a legal responsibility to make sure that none of your guests drink too much.
- Pace the drinks. Serve drinks at regular reasonable intervals. A drink-an-hour schedule is a good guide.
- Push snacks. Make sure that people are eating.
- Be sure to offer a diversity of attractive non-alcohol drinks. For numerous non-alcoholic drink recipes, please visit idrink.com.
- Respect anyone's choice not to drink. Remember that about one-third of American adults choose not to drink and that a guest's reason for not drinking is the business of the guest only, not of the host. Never put anyone on the defense for not drinking.
- End your gathering properly. Decide when you want the party to end and stop serving drinks well before that time. Then begin serving coffee along with substantial snacks. This provides essential non-drinking time before your guests leave.
- Protect others and yourself by never driving if you think, or anyone else thinks, that you might have had too much to drink. It's always best to use a designated driver.
Research information provided by Prof. David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Sociology Department, State University of New York, Potsdam, NY 13676. For additional information on alcohol problems & solutions, please visit the website.