According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the United States in 2010 one person every 52 minutes died as a result of an alcohol impaired driver. 28% of accidents involved a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or higher. Of those convicted 1/3 were repeat offenders and 50 to 75% continue to drive on suspended licenses. Given my own experience with an intoxicated driver I decided to do a little research… what I found was shocking and appalling.
Although the United States is slowly cracking down on this problem and we have seen decreases in fatalities since the origination of MADD and stiffer penalties, it is still an issue with an annual cost of 132 billion dollars and the loss of 10,228 lives and 345,000 injuries in 2010 alone.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there… drinking and driving is a global affliction. It might surprise you to learn that in many other countries the fines and penalties are less and often don’t include incarceration unless there are multiple criminal offenses within a short time or the driver has harmed someone else while driving under the influence and the BAC is high. I only found a couple of countries that will revoke a license permanently for repeat criminal dui offenses. Yeah… don’t drink and drive 3 times with criminal BAC levels in the Yukon, but what does that say for the rest of the world? Slowly they too are cracking down, but it leaves me to contemplate…why is this such a big problem? Not just here, but everywhere?
Is it youth? Well statistics show that 34% of alcohol related fatalities are drivers aged 21-24, closely followed by 30% age 25-34. So even though our young drivers have the highest ratio for their age group that still leaves 1/3 of dui convictions being repeat offenders that aren’t getting the message. Why? Well it’s not a stretch to imagine they have an alcohol problem.
Addiction has long been known to over ride will and common sense. Obviously we cannot cure individual addictions or police individual intent or actions, but these fatality and injury statistics are completely unacceptable. Speaking as someone who lives with the lifelong ramifications from someone else’s selfish decision to drink and drive, I am a staunch advocate for even further reform.
So I have some ideas… let me know what you think?
Lets say we eliminate that first age group all together? Do we really need to drive before we are 24 or 25? Studies show that our pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brains that govern our impulse control are not fully developed until age 25. Given that knowledge is it really wise for our youth to be behind the wheel of a dangerous weapon prior to that? Just sayin…
The other thing I was thinking is, and this might be a little out there for some of you…. Given all the wonderful safety devices our vehicles come equipped with these days, shatter proof safety glass, airbags, anti-lock braking systems… why not.. a device that id’s you via retinal scan with a breathalyzer programmed with your state’s BAC requirements? This way instead of revoking licenses we simply make it impossible for intoxicated people to operate vehicles. If you blow too high the car won’t turn on, problem solved. Your friend’s car won’t turn on either because you would have to blow into it as well. It may seem radical and clearly it would be expensive at first, but would it really cost us more than what we are already paying, and can you really put a price tag on the loss of innocent lives? As always… thanks for listening.
For those of you who are interested….
My story is illustrated in the poem I wrote “Ignorance’s Toll”
I have provided the link below.