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FACTS ABOUT DRUNK OR IMPAIRED DRIVING
Everyone knows that drinking and driving is not only a bad idea, its dangerous. We all know of people who have been arrested for drunk driving or been involved in an accident with a drunk driver. While even one person being injured or killed by a drunk driver is too many, I’ve lost count of the number of victims of drunk driving that we, as a law firm, have represented.
We have all heard at least one tragic story about a mom heading home from work, or a bus full of students heading back from an amusement park, or a road construction worker on the job, and the list goes on and on. Yet, people still keep driving drunk. So, instead of talking about the virtues of not driving drunk or impaired, I thought I’d share some cold hard facts with all of you.
In 2008, (the most recent year available), Indiana ranked 20th in the nation for alcohol-impaired motor fatalities. That year saw 814 deaths on Indiana’s roadways that were caused when a driver had a blood alcohol level or blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk-driving related crashes—a decline of 9.8 percent from the 13,041 drunk driving related fatalities of 2007. (“Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Alcohol Impaired Driving” DOT 810 985. Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008.)
“But I only had a couple of beers…” or “I’m not that drunk”
Many people mistakenly believe that driving after minimal alcohol consumption is ok. However, the statistics have long proved this to be an incorrect assumption. This 1996 study by a group affiliated with the National Institute of Health, and this 1997 study by the Medical Council on Alcoholism both demonstrate that self-assessment is unreliable at best. According to this chart, which takes into account gender and weight, but not some other conditions (i.e., fatigue, medical conditions, medications), the maximum number of drinks for a 240-pound male to consume before driving impairment is one. 1. uno. A single 12-ounce beer OR one five-ounce glass of table wine OR one shot of hard liquor. With the second drink, his BAC rises to .03% and his ability to drive is impacted.
“But I didn’t hit anybody or damage any property”
With more and more states imposing sobriety checkpoints, you don’t have to be in an accident to get caught. A DUI on your record will raise your insurance rates if you can get car insurance at all. A DUI conviction can also impact your life insurance.
“What can be done to reduce fatalities resulting from alcohol impaired driving?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD C) recommends further lowering the statutory level of intoxication to .05%, in order to prevent fatalities and injuries resulting from driving while under the influence of alcohol. It also recommends more stringent enforcement of existing laws, including prompt revocation of licenses for persons who drive under the influence and requiring substance abuse assessment and treatment for those drivers.
I understand that many of us enjoy a glass or two of wine now and again. Just remember that a taxi cab ride home is far, far less expensive than bonding out of jail for a DUI. Also, consider having a designated driver when going out and appoint a key master if you are celebrating at a friend’s home. Using good judgment before drinking prevents bad judgment while drinking, especially since drinking inhibits sound judgment. And remember, friends don’t let friends drive drunk isn’t just a catchy slogan, it’s the truth. You’re doing a friend a favor when you suggest they take a cab or allow you to drive them home. It’s quite possible your friend doesn’t know they’re slurring their words or being a little too loud. They really may not know that they’re “that drunk.”
Finally, remember that bad things really do happen. I truly hope that none of you know the pain that I’ve seen my clients suffer. So, I’m not going to tell you about the infant girl whose grandfather is raising her because her mother was killed by an impaired driver (ok, maybe I just did), or any of the many, many sad stories I seen firsthand. I’m just going to ask everyone to look at the statistics. And please, don’t become a statistic and don’t make someone else one. Instead, take a cab.
Additional research compiled by Lori M. Craig, R.P.