Drinking & Driving

Cars Not the Only Thing Drunk People Should Not Operate

For decades, the public has been inundated with public service announcements, lectures, signs and police presence all warning drunk people not to get behind the wheel of a car. And while deaths involving drunk drivers are still one of the highest causes of accidental deaths in the country, there is something else that the public should be warned about. People under the influence of alcohol should also not ride a bike or walk home while under the influence of alcohol either.

This is important, because many people may consider it ok to do these things, as long as they are not driving a car. But, a new study shows that over 30% of pedestrian deaths and 20% of bicyclist deaths are related to alcohol. “Education and enforcement campaigns aimed at reducing impaired driving may give people the erroneous impression that walking or riding a bike is a safe alternative. The public needs to better informed about the dangers of alcohol impairment for anybody on the road,” stated Angela Eichelberger, lead author of the study.

This study was commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and is aimed at broadening public awareness regarding alcohol. Ensuring that people understand that operating any mode of transportation, including walking, while under the influence is dangerous, and can result in death.

Interestingly, the amount of people who die each year from walking or biking accidents that also involve alcohol does not really fluctuate. This means that health organizations, law agencies and schools need to do a better job informing people about the dangers of mixing alcohol into these situations. It is much more common for someone to be told not to drink and drive than it is for them to be told not to ride a bike and drink, or walk home while drunk. But the same reason why someone should not drink and drive applies to those who bike or walk. Alcohol hinders a person’s ability to make good decisions, it lowers coordination and judgement. These are all necessary when navigating around in a bike or on foot.

Possibly a more effective public service announcement would be to show how important it is to ask for rides from sober people, rather than embark on a trip home under the influence.

Benefit of Strict Alcohol Laws

Alcohol-related car accidents are among the leading cause of death in the United States. According to new research, about half of all fatal car accidents where a child is killed is due, in some part, to alcohol. Despite having some of the toughest alcohol laws in the world, the United States still sees thousands of lives lost to the dangerous combination of alcohol and driving. In an effort to reduce this statistic, some researchers have released a study that shows the possibility of a decrease in these deaths of more strict alcohol laws are enacted.

“To reduce alcohol-related crash deaths among youth, it is important to strengthen policies that focus on adults, not just youth, and that focus on drinking, not just driving,” commented Dr. Tim Naimi, an alcohol epidemiologist at Boston University’s School of Medicine. This means that the most effective policies often have little to do with drink driving or underage drinking. In fact, policies like increasing taxes on alcohol beverages, or reducing the number of stores that can sell alcohol in an area, or limiting the times that alcohol can be sold are among the most effective policies in eliminating drunk driving deaths.

A focus on this approach has gained some media attention as the best way to reduce alcohol-related violence, deaths and misconduct and it appears that many states are coming on board. For instance, the states with the strictest alcohol policies reported a decrease of 9% when it came to youth-related deaths from incidents involving alcohol. And often children who are killed in crashes where alcohol is involved were not driving and were not drinking. The data shows that almost half of the youth killed in these crashes were not driving, and 80% of those victims were passengers in a car being driven by an adult who was under the influence of alcohol.

While these new policies could help with the mortality rate in alcohol-related events, it is important to note that researchers are not advocating lesser laws or punishment for drunk drivers. Broader policies are effective, but in conjunction with strict drink driving policies and laws is where the real results are seen.

Citizens Concerned About Drunk Driving

A survey conducted by the Gallup group showed that American citizens are more concerned with drunk drivers on the road, than people driving under the influence of other substances. Overall, 97% of people who were surveyed cited alcohol as the number one concern they have for drivers on the road. While participants were not asked to rate substances based on how impaired a substance made a driver, they were instead asked what substance concerned them the most regarding other driver’s safety on the road.

The results of the survey show that despite a countrywide attack on drunk driving, including public service announcements, education and increased punishment for those who are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol, there is still great worry over the safety of the roads. It also shows that it is difficult to change behavior simply with laws and PSAs. There must be more ways to influence people to eliminate their drunk driving patterns.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other public groups have helped to make a significant push for more accountability for drunk drivers as well as more public awareness about the issue. Way too many people have lost their lives. This Gallup survey also revealed that teenagers agree with adults that alcohol is more dangerous to consume prior to getting behind the wheel than other drugs.

Experts do agree that while marijuana does not appear to pose as great a risk to other drivers as alcohol, this might change as more and more states begin to legalize marijuana. It is unclear how the amount of people who smoke marijuana and drive will change, but it is likely to increase. Additionally, people are more prone to mix alcohol and marijuana, which is much more dangerous than either substance by itself.

The End of Drunk Driving?

New technology, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), could put an end to drunk driving. The technology is a combination of breathalyzer and touch technology that would prevent the car from being operated by someone who is over the legal limit. Additionally, teenagers who have the system installed in their car would not be able to drive the car at all if they have alcohol in their system. NHTSA showed off their program to members of Congress this week and explained that they would like the system to be installed in cars as a safety option. While the system would not be mandatory, it would be an option for parents and possibly an incentive given by insurance companies.

“There is still a great deal of work to do, but support from Congress and industry has helped us achieve key research and development milestones. DADSS has enormous potential to prevent drunk driving in specific populations such as teen drivers and commercial fleets, and making it an option available to vehicle owners would provide a powerful new tool in the battle against drunk driving deaths,” explained Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator.

The excitement surrounding this program can be explained when people look at drunk driving statistics. According to the FBI, it is believed that there are 300,000 incidents of drunk driving daily in the United States, but only 4,000 arrests are made each day for the offense. The huge difference in these numbers illustrates the need for more safeguards to be in place. It is clear that law enforcement cannot monitor all drivers and will not catch everyone who gets behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol.

The optional safety measure is especially beneficial for those that have already been convicted of drunk driving. The FBI also reports that around 33% of all drunk driving arrests are with offenders that have already been caught intoxicated and behind the wheel. It would appear that there are some people who need the restrictions of a preventative program, and other people who would like the device for protective measures, especially with teenagers.

Can New Testing Reduce Repeat Drunk Drivers?

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our country. Drivers who get behind the wheel of a car after they have been drinking is a threat to an entire community. Police all over the country spend countless hours monitoring the roads for signs of a person who has been drinking too much in an effort to help keep other travelers safe.

In addition to the drunk driving problem our country is experiencing, many drunk drivers are repeat offenders. While the punishment is stiff for driving under the influence, it has not deterred many from getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol even if they have already been convicted of drunk driving.

The state of Wisconsin recently tallied up the number of drunk driving incidents that were committed by someone who already had a record of drunk driving. They found that 33 percent of their drunk driving cases were with people who had been already been convicted. These repeat offenders are putting an entire state at risk and public officials and law enforcement felt it was time that something was done about this.

Instead of increasing the fines or jail time convicted drunk drivers face, the state of Wisconsin is looking to prevent the growing alcohol problem altogether. People who have already been convicted of driving under the influence must submit blood and fingernail samples so their alcohol use can be monitored. When a person is convicted of a DUI they are required to undergo one year of monitoring. During the year-long monitoring process people are less likely to drink and drive, and positive samples can help deter them to treatment programs.

“The goal is not to catch people. It’s to get them sober, so that they’re not killing someone on the road, and that they actually discover that there’s another life out there,” explained Doug Lewis, president of the company that is analyzing the blood and fingernail samples.

Arizona Reports More Labor Day DUI Arrests Compared to Last Year

As part of a statewide DUI enforcement initiative in Arizona, police are cracking down on drunk drivers. According to data released after Labor Day, more people used designate drivers this year compared to last. One might assume that this means there were less DUI arrests made this year compared to last, but there were 16 percent more Labor Day DUIs this year. That’s 582 DUI arrests in total, while the average blood-alcohol content remained the same from last year at .145, according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s figures.

The DUI enforcement initiative is also aiming to penalize those who drive under the influence of drugs, not just alcohol. Arrests for suspected drug use while driving was up 21 percent from last Labor Day, which is a total of 103 people.

The amount of people under the age of 21 that were drinking this Labor Day weekend also grew from 2013. Police gave out almost twice as many citations to underage drinkers as they did last year.

In an effort to keep Arizona citizens safe, nearly 2,000 officers helped to police the streets of Arizona this Labor Day weekend. The long holiday can be a dangerous time when people are drinking during the day at barbecues or while watching football games. With so much alcohol-related activity, the risk of alcohol-related accidents or fatalities spikes. To control the risk, Arizona law enforcement officials established checkpoints on major roads and patrolled popular streets to deter people from driving under the influence and to arrest those who are driving drunk or on drugs.

The reports tallied up the number of arrests and citations Thursday through Monday. The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reported the final results that confirmed the law enforcement officials were doing their job to keep dangerous drivers off the roads.

Alcohol Detection Bracelets Getting More Use

Law enforcement and public officials are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of those who commit crimes or otherwise break the law. A new way of detecting alcohol in people that may be behind the wheel is very promising to those who are tasked with keeping our streets safe from drunk drivers.

Currently most law enforcement agencies use a breathalyzer to detect blood alcohol level. If there is a suspicion that a person may be driving under the influence, the police officer can request that they submit to field sobriety tests. In addition to the breathalyzer, the person may be asked to walk in a straight line, touch their finger tip to the tip of their nose or recite the alphabet – these are all tests that are designed to detect if a person is under the influence of alcohol.

A new method of detection has arrived on the scene, in the form of a bracelet. The bracelet is intended for those who are on some sort of abstinence ruling. Perhaps they are not allowed to drink alcohol because of a court case. These bracelets can detect alcohol through the skin and alert the court that the person is violating the terms of their probation.

One county in Wisconsin received a grant to purchase these bracelets for offenders who have violated more than once. Offenders who are constantly violating the terms of their probation by consuming alcohol need something like the bracelet as a reminder that they cannot drink. For those who submit to urine analysis screens, they oftentimes talk themselves into drinking as soon as they take the test because the alcohol will not be detected. The bracelets will alert the courts immediately if the person violated their terms and even has a few sips of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse continues to be a major problem throughout the United States. For those that have committed crimes relating to alcohol it may be necessary for them to enroll in a treatment program.

New Survey Shows 20 Percent of Teens Think It’s OK for Designated Driver to Drink

A disturbing trend that appears to be emerging among teenagers is that that one in five teens believe it’s okay for their designated driver to drink and use drugs, as long as they’re not “too impaired.” This mindset is extremely dangerous, which unfortunately costs lives of not only some of the teens involved, but potentially also to innocent people on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), About 18 percent of fatal crashes involving 16 – 20 yr-olds included impaired drivers. Overall, more than 30 percent of the total deaths (about 10,000 lives lost) are alcohol-related each year.

Bloomberg reports that the information from the survey was provided by Liberty Mutual Holding. David Melton, managing director for global safety at Liberty Mutual, told Bloomberg that teens ““seem to think that unless they’re really falling-down drunk, that it’s OK for them to drive.”

Teens today are bombarded with a pop culture attitude that “partying” as much as possible is good. Reality show after reality show aimed at young people include drunk, obnoxious and irresponsible behavior that is popularized and even glamorized. Additionally, music in multiple genres today are heavily-laden with references about drinking, from pop and country to hip-hop and more.

In order to reverse trends such as the one mentioned in the survey, a full cultural shift must take place into one that doesn’t condone such behavior.

Nearly 20 Percent of Drinkers Drove Near or Over Legal Limit in Past Year

aaaAs if the roads weren’t dangerous enough since the population continues to grow, streets become more crowded and more drivers than ever are under the influence of some form of medication, news hit recently saying that nearly one-fifth of drinkers admitted to driving a car when they were near or over the legal limit for blood-alcohol level.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), their surveys showed an average of about 15 percent of drinkers admitted to driving near or over the limit combined in the past two years. Unfortunately many thousands of lives are lost each year due to alcohol-related traffic fatalities. These tragically preventable deaths continue to occur despite raising drinking ages, lowering BAC limits and increasing penalties for drunk driving.

The Holiday Season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day) is the most-traveled time of the year, and AAA estimates that about 95 million Americans will be traveling by cars to have celebrations with friends and family.

Please take precautions if your celebrations involve alcohol. Don’t let your loved ones drive drunk. You may not only save their lives, but also the lives of others on the road.