Drunk Driving: Increased or Decreased in the Last 5 Years?

One Friday night, Linda met up with some co-workers for appetizers, trivia and a few cocktails.  At the end of the night, one friend called a cab, Linda had one drink in a 3 hour period, and another friend, Joni, who left without saying good-bye, had 3 or 4 margaritas.  When Linda noticed that Joni had left the restaurant, she tried to stop her from leaving the parking lot, but her car was already gone.  Joni has a bad and dangerous habit of driving while drunk, but promises she won’t do it each time they go out for drinks.  The next morning, Linda got a call from Joni, who was calling from the police station.  Joni had been pulled over for suspicious driving, was given a breathalyzer, and was taken to jail with a BAC of 0.100 (well over the legal limit of 0.08).  After receiving a DWI, Joni told Linda that she was surprised that she had been pulled over, as she had driven at least 3 dozen times while legally drunk.  “I drive fine!” she told Linda, “The only reason I swerved was because I was trying to make a phone call.”  Linda knew that Joni’s drinking behavior was problematic and urged her to seek help.  Had Joni not been pulled over by police, she could have been responsible for the injuries or death of an innocent victim.

The Drunk Driving Epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average drunk driver has driven 80 times, while intoxicated, before the first arrest.  Drunk driving is expensive (an average of $500 per adult/year) and happens far too frequently (1-in-3 people will be involved in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime).  Additionally, drunk driving is responsible for thousands of crash-related injuries and deaths each year.  Fortunately, drunk driving incidents have decreased in the last 5 years.  In 2005, there were 13, 582 drunk driving related fatalities, but five years later, in 2010, there were 10, 228.  Reports show that the number of fatalities and injuries continue to decrease.  While thousands of drunk driving related injuries and deaths are still far too many, it seems as though drivers are finally starting to “wise up” and/or enforcement is becoming stricter.  Either way, the numbers show that more lives are being spared on our roadways.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the decrease in drunk driving incidents can be partly attributed to drunk driving awareness and enforcement efforts such as the Zero Tolerance Laws.  Additionally, among major crimes, driving under the influence (DUI) has one of the highest arrest rates with more than 1.4 million DUI arrests in 2010.  High rates of arrests are potentially preventing drunk driving related incidents before they occur.

Just because drunk driving, overall, has decreased, it does not mean that you should start or continue to drive while under the influence.  Drunk driving is dangerous and very difficult.  When you are impaired, you’re driving becomes impaired.  Reaction time slows down, judgment is poor, and depth perception is inaccurate, which can all lead to an accident that could result in injuries or even death, leaving YOU with the legal ramifications.  Don’t take the risk, don’t increase the problem, don’t drink and drive!