It’s shocking to realize that ONE-THIRD of all fatal traffic accidents have DRUNK DRIVING as a factor, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association. Can the death count due to drinking and driving really be that high? Yes.
Research reveals that 69% of those who died in traffic accidents in 2014 had at least one driver with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .15 g/dL or more.
Lots of Drunk Drivers in Indiana and Illinois
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a national survey, almost 2% of those questioned admitted that they had driven drunk in the past 30 days. Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2012.
Breaking down that national survey state by state, and 1.6% of Hoosiers surveyed admitted to have driven their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in the past month. Illinois was higher than Indiana as well as the national average: 2.2% of Illinois drivers admitted to driving drunk at least once within the past 30 days.
Driving drunk at least once a month, and admitting to it? Think about how many people are getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol who didn’t admit to it in this survey. Think about how many admitted to doing it “at least” once a month, but are really doing it quite a bit more than that — every weekend, every Friday night, every day?
How many lives are lost because of this entirely PREVENTABLE cause of a fatal traffic accident? How many lives will be lost this year here in Indiana and Illinois because of a drunk driver?
Drunk Driving Crashes: Let’s Talk Costs
The economic costs of traffic accidents was the subject of a study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), entitled “The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 (Revised).” It delves into all sorts of reasons behind the high number of traffic accidents in the United States, both those where someone dies as well as non-fatal crashes.
From their data, we know that drunk driving accidents (fatal and non-fatal) cost each U.S. citizen $140/year, if you break down the overall economic costs to the country of these crashes ($43 Billion). The NHTSA goes on to report that drunk driving crashes are to blame for 23% of the “overall societal harm” caused by traffic accidents, or $194,000,000,000.00 each year.
Numbers like these (and there are lots of other studies on the impact of drunk driving accidents on our economy) confirm that even if someone can possible disregard the horror, tragedy, and human cost of a drunk driver’s crash upon the victim, his family, his loved ones, and his community (past, present, and future), there is also the dollars-and-cents reality that the Drunk Driving Accident Epidemic is making a serious dent in the national bottom line. It’s costing us billions of dollars. (And maybe that fact will turn some heads that aren’t that concerned with human suffering, sad to say.)
Keeping Drunk Drivers Off the Roads of Indiana and Illinois
In our last post, we discussed the upcoming “Drive Sober or Be Pulled Over” campaign — which should help not only to educate people about how easily one can come under the influence of alcohol but to also show how dangerous it can be to yourself and others to take the wheel after a drink or two.
Increased police presence on the roads generally, as well as near places where more people are likely to be driving drunk (on roads shortly after closing time, after the big football game, etc.), can only serve to help prevent drunk driving fatalities and DUI accidents.
Moreover, new studies are showing that there are less people drinking and driving under the influence than in years past. This is great news — however, along with victories in keeping people from driving drunk come new realities: there’s a tremendous increase in people driving while under the influence of drugs (legal and illegal) and marijuana.
A survey done by NHTSA in 2014 revealed that 25% of surveyed drivers tested positive for having a drug in their system that could impede their ability to drive a motor vehicle.
“America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference. At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”
Apparently, drivers are not refraining from driving impaired inasmuch as they are replacing the source of their impairment: i.e., drugs for booze. That’s scary. And dangerous.
Finding Justice for Victims of Drunk Drivers and DUI Accidents
It is particularly heart-rending to learn of a victim of a motor vehicle accident where the cause of the crash involved alcohol and a drunk driver. Why? Because that driver made the choice to get behind the wheel, start the car, and enter onto our streets, roads, and highways knowing that he (or she) had consumed alcohol — and that any human who drinks an alcoholic beverage is subject to impairment.
It’s a decision that the driver made — to drive drunk; to drive a motor vehicle while “under the influence.” Of course, an accident by definition lacks intent — the driver doesn’t want to crash, the driver does not intend to have an accident.
- They can handle their liquor.
- They didn’t have that much.
- It was only beer.
However, a drunk driver can come close to crossing that line of “intent” — some cases can be argued that the line was crossed when that particular driver made that proactive decision to drive their vehicle drunk, or impaired by alcohol.
This is why so many, so often, label Drunk Driving Deaths as being totally preventable. Because they are.
Sadly, it appears in the research that the war against drunk driving is far from over in our part of the country — and that to the extent that battles are being won, another enemy is gaining ground as the use of legal and illegal drugs by drivers is gaining in popularity.
Which means that the serious accident injuries and the wrongful deaths that result from impaired drivers causing accidents are going to continue to happen here in Indiana and Illinois.
It is of some comfort that both Indiana and Illinois have state laws in place to help the victims of drunk drivers – as well as drivers impaired by drugs — to find some kind of justice in the aftermath of the DUI accident. Personal injury laws are in place to provide help including covering medical expenses, long term therapy costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. Wrongful death claims can be asserted, as well.
Perhaps the greater good would be to find a way to prevent that drunk or impaired driver from taking the wheel in the first place. Let’s be careful out there!