Drunk Driving Takes a Heavy Toll

Despite efforts in recent years to combat drunk driving, it remains a pervasive problem in the United States. Although alcohol-related driving incidents have slowly decreased by 33% in the past 30 years, more than 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2016. In 2016, 28% of all car fatalities were related in some way to alcohol. 11.7% of these casualties were children 14 years or younger.

Jurisdictions across the United States continue to crack down on drunk driving wherever and whenever possible. Furthermore, the private sector is stepping in to provide effective products and services to cut down on the number of intoxicated drivers out on the road. The Low Cost Interlock device and rideshare companies are just two examples of this effort. However, the ultimate weapon against drunk driving is awareness of its devastating consequences.

Getting the Facts on Drunk Driving

Not all Americans report having had an alcoholic beverage. In fact, one survey by the NSDUH showed that 13.6% of respondents had never even tried alcohol. A little more than half of survey takers reported they had partaken of alcohol in the last year. The real root of drunk driving and alcohol abuse lies with binge drinkers. According to the NSDUH survey, more than one-fourth of respondents admitted that they had engaged in binge drinking during the past month. This gives America a higher rate of binge drinking compared to other developed countries like Australia and Canada. Males are also more likely to engage in the risky behavior of driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2015 alone, more than 500,000 men were arrested for DUI. Males in the Midwest are most likely to cause an alcohol-related driving accident.

The youth culture of excessive alcohol consumption is often blamed for the high death rate from DUI-related accidents in the United States. Alcohol is commonly seen as a desirable symbol of adulthood. Many underage drinkers begin consuming alcohol to attain approval within their peer groups. Binge drinking is a particularly pervasive problem on college campuses where it is encouraged by peers and often viewed as a rite of passage. The National Institutes of Health reported in 2015 that 60% of college students admitted that they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the past month. 66% of the students disclosed that they had also engaged in binge drinking at least once during the same period.

A study published in 2012 found that 4% of adults surveyed admitted to engaging in binge drinking at least four times in the previous month. However, this small percentage accounted for 61% of alcohol-related driving incidents. Binge drinkers made up 85% of automobile incidents that resulted from driving under the influence of alcohol. Respondents who stated that they do not binge drink were involved in only 15% of these incidents.

Even officials tasked with preventing drinking and driving are not immune. State senator Paul Campbell of South Carolina was recently charged with driving under the influence when he collided with another vehicle. Campbell currently serves on the South Carolina Senate’s transportation committee. Additionally, a master police officer in Richmond, Virginia was also recently arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Drinking and driving also takes an enormous financial toll on the United States. As a whole, driving under the influence costs the US an estimated $132 billion each year. Healthcare costs for those involved in alcohol-related accidents can quickly add up. The US spends $8.4 billion annually just for healthcare related to underage drinking. Binge drinking in college is connected to poor grades; this results in dropouts and possibly a lower salary in the future.

To reduce the economic burden of drunk drivers, many states have implemented preventative measures. These include passing laws mandating the aforementioned ignition interlock devices for offenders and increasing penalties for drivers who are transporting children while intoxicated.

In the end, alcohol consumption accounts for over three million deaths every year. Many of these involve an intoxicated individual choosing to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. While government and private entities continue the battle, it’s ultimately the public’s fight to win or lose.