Drinking and driving is a major factor in car accidents and their related injuries and fatalities every day. The percentage of alcohol related traffic deaths has gone down over the last twenty years, with a decrease of 49 percent from 1991 through 2011. However, fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers still composes nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities, with a rate of 31% of these deaths being related to alcohol consumption, according to information provided by The Century Council.1
Drinking and driving accidents and deaths are highly preventable, as drinking and then driving is a choice. Although there might not be as much choice in drinking when it comes to those who are addicted to alcohol, preparations can be made ahead of time for someone who is not alcohol impaired to be doing any necessary driving. According to statistics provided by the University of Texas at San Antonio, drunk drivers are at the following disadvantages when operating a motor vehicle:
- Reduced coordination
- Up to 25% slower reaction time
- 32% decrease in vision acuity
- Narrowed line of sight
- Incorrect perceptions of depth and distance
- Muffled hearing
- Loss of coordination
- Lack of understanding of situations, signs, and signals
- Negatively affected concentration
- Impaired judgment
With all of these effects to driving ability caused by alcohol, it is no wonder that drunk driving can cause so many accidents and even fatalities. In fact:
- Approximately 30 people die every day because of drunk driving
- That averages out to about 1 person every 48 minutes dies because someone decided to drive while drunk.
- There are more drunk driving fatalities over the weekends than during the week.
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by alcohol impairment are four times more likely to occur at night than during the day.
Drunk driving statistics don’t only involve the drunk driver. Many times injuries and deaths are of occupants in other vehicles, or non-vehicle occupants, such as pedestrians. Of the alcohol related fatalities in 20111:
- 66% were drivers of vehicles, although not necessarily the drunk driver
- 27% were occupants inside of vehicles
- 7% were not in motor vehicles
Drunk driving affects the one drinking, anyone in the vehicle with the drunk driver, and anyone on or near the road where the inebriated person is driving. Sadly, many children are lost each year to drunk driving motor vehicle accidents. In fact, of all children who died in motor vehicle crashes, 17 percent of these deaths are attributable to drunk driving3. Of those, 61 percent were passengers in the car with a drunk driver.
With all of the accidents, injuries, and fatalities, there are more people who drive under the influence of alcohol than who are caught and charged with a crime. In fact, it is estimated that only about one percent of all of those who drive while being functionally impaired by alcohol are even caught, whether by being pulled over by law enforcement or by causing a motor vehicle accident. That means there are approximately 112 million people who drive under the influence of alcohol.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving4, about one-third of all people who are arrested or convicted of driving while impaired due to alcohol consumption are actually repeat offenders. This shows how much an addiction such as alcoholism can control the person. These people continue to drink despite legal problems and the risks that the drinking behavior pose to themselves or to others.
Due to stricter laws, increased enforcement, and education and awareness programs, the rate of drunk driving fatalities for drivers under the age of 21 has decreased by 63 percent in the past twenty years. Of all motor vehicle fatalities caused by drunk drivers, about 18 percent were caused by drivers from the age of 16 to the age of 20. Children who begin drinking at a younger age are about seven times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident that is alcohol-related.
There have been many changes to drunk driving laws and the addition of preventive measures that have helped to raise education and awareness, as well as to help reduce the number of alcohol related traffic deaths. Some preventive measures include sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlocks, a device in a car that won’t let the car start if the driver is alcohol impaired. It is believed that sobriety checkpoints account for a 9 percent reduction in alcohol related crashes, while ignition interlocks have reduced the arrest rate for driving while alcohol impaired by approximately 70 percent.5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).