Alcohol before driving: Losing life every 22 minutes
The dangers of drinking and driving have been taught for generations, yet the cautions still fall upon deaf ears. For one Tracy resident, this nightmare became her reality when the car she was driving was hit by a drunken driver.
Lori Martin was just 16 years old at the time and she had no idea that her entire world was about to change, that everything she knew would soon be gone. Lori had to be removed from the twisted hunk of metal that had wrapped itself around her in the crash. She was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Stockton.
Lori suffered a brain injury that affected her ability to speak. She had eight cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, a shattered ankle, paralysis on her entire left side and her left upper arm was also shattered. Critically injured, she slipped into a coma that lasted four months.
"My attention is on the upcoming holidays and the parties where a variety of drinks will be served,'' Lori said.”Alcohol will be consumed by some before driving home. It may be difficult to be sure if you are legally sober, or in any condition to drive. Yet, in the distance, there is danger that can strike without warning and kill without mercy. The drunken driver is a deadly force that can destroy life in its path.
We've all heard the stories, we've all seen the damage caused — and yet some will still choose to drink and drive, taking a gamble with someone else's life.
According to the California Highway Patrol, 87,000 people were arrested statewide last year for driving under the influence. More than 50 percent of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic collision sometime in their lifetime.
Long holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day weekend, add to the statistics, as families use the three-day holiday to get a start on their warm weather vacations.
So there has been some talk of sobriety checkpoints being implemented in Washington. Several other states already use the system and have seen varied success in reducing drunken driving accidents/deaths. In order to use them in Washington, the State Patrol will need a court-issued warrant and will have to notify the public of the checkpoint’s presence.
California cites statistics to support their use of checkpoints:
- 50 percent of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-involved traffic collision in his or her lifetime. NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 40.9% of fatal crashes in 1994; resulting in 17,000 deaths.
- Nearly 23,000 people are killed every year in alcohol-related traffic collisions.
- One American life is lost every 22 minutes in an alcohol-related traffic collision. About 2 in every 5 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. In 1994 there were 16,589 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes which represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 32 minutes.
The fact is that studies have shown:
- One out of 10 children ages 12 and 13 uses alcohol at least once a month.
- In a single year, 522 children under age 14 were arrested for driving while intoxicated, (113 of them were under 10 years old). More than 1.5 million drivers were arrested in 1993 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics; an arrest rate of 1 for every 117 licensed drivers in the United States.
- 70 percent of all teenagers drink alcohol.
- 60 percent of all teen deaths in car accidents are alcohol-related.
On Canadian highways, 1 in 5 drivers has been drinking; 1 in 20 drivers is impaired; upwards of 50% of driver fatalities involve alcohol, and at least 38% of these drivers are impaired.
NHTSA defines a fatal traffic crash as being alcohol-related if either a driver or a non occupant (e.g., pedestrian) had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 grams per deciliter (g/dl) or greater in a police-reported traffic crash. Persons with a BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater involved in fatal crashes are considered to be intoxicated. This is the legal limit of intoxication in most states.
For young drivers 15 to 20 years old, alcohol involvement is higher among males than among females. In 1999, 24 percent of the young male drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking at the time of the crash, compared with 11 percent of the young female drivers involved in fatal crashes. Each alcohol-related death costs nation an average of 37 years of life lost--in contrast to 16 years for cancer and 12 years for heart disease.
Drivers are less likely to use restraints when they have been drinking. In 1999, 73 percent of the young drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were unrestrained. Of the young drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes, 79 percent were unrestrained.
Alcohol before driving is a widespread problem. It is estimated that two in every five Americans (or 40%) will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.
Researchers estimate that between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. one out of every ten drivers is intoxicated. More than one-third of these drivers have been drinking at someone else’s home. Nearly 50 percent of the drivers arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) are social to moderate drinkers. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you. In your lifetime, there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll be involved in an alcohol-related crash.
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