Almost 30 people a day die in drunken driving accidents in the United States. This is about one every 48 minutes and costs about $51 billion every year. In 2009, one-third of the deaths from accidents were cause by an alcohol-impaired driver. Among children from 0 to 14 years who died in a traffic accident, 14 percent of the deaths were caused by a drunk driver. Half of these were in the vehicle with the drunken driver. Marijuana and cocaine are involved in 18 percent of accidents, as they are usually used with alcohol.
Blood alcohol content (BAC) affects people differently because the time it takes to become absorbed into the system and the time it takes to leave the system differs. The risk of an alcohol-related accident doubles when the BAC reaches .05 and the risk increases ten-fold at .08. It increases twenty-fold at .10 and by several hundred-fold at the level of .15.
Who is the most at risk?
There are four million adults who drive drunk every year. They put everyone at risk. Men at every age level have a far greater number of drinking and driving episodes than women.
The people who are the most at risk for alcohol-impaired driving accidents are young people, motorcyclists and drivers who have already be convicted once for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
• The largest group of drivers with BAC of 0.08 percent or higher who were involved in a fatal accident, over one out of three, were between the ages of 21 and 24 years.
• Even without alcohol involved, teens between 16 and 19 years are four times more likely to die in an automobile crash than everyone else. Add alcohol and it becomes even more risky.
• Of all the fatal motorcycle accidents in 2009, 29 percent involved a BAC of 0.08 percent or more.
• Almost half of the motorcyclists killed each year in accidents are age 40 years or older. The highest number of deaths is for those between 40 and 44 years.
Drivers with a previous DWI conviction
• Drivers who are involved in a fatal accident and have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher are eight times more likely to have had a previous DWI conviction than drivers with no alcohol in their blood.
• Between one third and three-fourths of drivers who arrested for DWI have been charged with the offense before
• One half to one-third of those who are charged will be charged again in the future
The results of drunk driving.
• Passengers, pedestrians, drivers and innocent adults and children in other vehicles are killed
• Financial loss suffered when a person cannot earn money due to an injury or death
• Destroyed or damaged vehicles
• Property such as highway signs, utility poles, buildings, and trees are also destroyed
• Auto insurance rates rise
• Crashed vehicles impede traffic flow for some time
• Innocent drivers may avoid the road at certain times because of the possible risk of a drunk driver
• A lot of police resources are consumed to prevent drunk driving that could be put elsewhere for public safety
• Hospitals, ambulances, fire engines, and police cars are needed for the victims of drunk driving collisions
• Prosecution and incarceration cost the community money to pursue drunken driving charges
Who are drunk drivers?
Driving when under the influence of alcohol is practiced by a broad spectrum of people. Most of these people are law-abiding citizens. The highest rate of drunk driving comes from white or Hispanic males between the ages of 25 and 44 years of age who are unmarried, working class and unemployed. Most drunk drivers are heavy drinkers who usually have a drinking problem.
If a person under the age of 21 years drinks and drives, they are about twice as likely to have a fatal accident as older drivers. After random testing, it is estimated that three percent of drivers at any time are legally impaired by alcohol. This rises significantly on the weekends when eight percent of drivers have a BAC of .05 and nine percent have had at least one drink. This means that in the evenings on weekends, about 17 percent of all drivers have taken some alcohol.
Why do people drink and drive?
The cultural drinking habits of a community also shape driving and drinking habits. Where weekends are considered a good time for heavy drinking, there will be more people drinking and driving. Also, owning a vehicle is required, so there are economic factors involved.
The number one factor why people drink and drive is the fact that they think they have a good chance of not getting caught. This is true. Even the most committed police departments can only stop less than one percent of the alcohol-impaired drivers on the road at any given time.
It also takes specialized training to detect drunk driving. Some police officers try to only arrest the drivers they think have a seriously high BAC and do not stop others. This may be because they are sure to prosecute strong cases or because they don’t want to be criticized for wasting resources on borderline cases.
At parties, restaurants or bars where alcohol is being served, serving to an obviously drunk person increases the risk of another drunken driver on the road. This is especially true if the location of the restaurant or party requires driving to reach it. Over-serving happens when there is pressure by patrons for another drink or by the establishment to sell as much alcohol as possible to maximize profits.
Attitudes affect drunk driving.
• People who have fear of drunk drivers, tend to drink little or none before they drive
• Social pressures to drink often cause people to drink and drive even though they fear drunk drivers
• People who understand BAC and try to keep it low drink less before they drive
• People who do not understand BAC and don’t have fear of drunk drivers usually drink more and drive drunk.