****This post has been edited to provide the most up-to-date information.***
FACT: An estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. *
FACT: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver. **
FACT: On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.*
Alcohol, drugs, and driving simply do not go together. Driving requires a person’s attentiveness and the ability to make quick decisions on the road, to react to changes in the environment and execute specific, often difficult maneuvers behind the wheel. When drinking alcohol, using drugs, or being distracted for any reason, driving becomes dangerous—and potentially lethal!
Consuming alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident. When any amount of alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires—judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time—become impaired.
Being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impact your life in ways you may not be aware of, including loss of employment, prevention of employment in certain jobs, higher insurance rates, serious financial setbacks, personal and family embarrassment, and possible incarceration.
Americans know the terrible consequences of drunk driving and are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Drugged driving poses similar threats to public safety because drugs have adverse effects on judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory. When misused, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications (11% tested positive for illegal drugs). In 2009, 18% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug (illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter).
*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
**Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]