December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, which was established to stop THIS from being true…
Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion. CDC – Impaired Driving Data and Statistics
One has to ask, 1) “How is it possible we still need a full month dedicated to impaired driving prevention?” 2) “How is it possible a person still ‘chooses’ to drink and drive?” and 3) “How is it possible a person ‘thinks’ they’re good to drive after smoking a joint or doubling up on their pain medications?”
Sadly, the numbers show the answer to #1 is that we need not only December, but we need every month of the year to do whatever it takes to stop one of the United States’ top killers – drunk and drugged drivers. Take these statistics for drunk driving shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Impaired Driving:
Impaired Driving Statistics
- In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
- Of the 1,210 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2010, 211 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Of the 211 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2010, over half (131) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
To address, in part, why these statistics are so high (and even though the obvious solution is flat out, Don’t Drink and Drive), people continuously believe they are still a safe driver if they only have one or two. So to answer question #2, “How is it possible a person still ‘chooses’ to drink and drive?,” I am summarizing the key points shared in my October 30, 2013, “Impaired Driving, 3 Things to Know:”
- Know how little it takes
- Know that even though a person stops drinking, their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) keeps rising
- Know you don’t have to be an alcoholic to get a DUI / DWI.
…for the details on these key points, please read, ”Impaired Driving, 3 Things to Know.”
The answer to #3, ”How is it possible a person ‘thinks’ they’re good to drive after smoking a joint or doubling up on their pain medications?,” is very similar to that for #2. Drugs, like alcohol (also considered a drug, BTW), change brain function. When you change brain function, you change behaviors, including: judgement, reaction time, perception and motor skills. So it’s not surprising that the numbers of persons killed by drugged drivers are just as staggering. Quoting from the CDC’s – Impaired Driving Data and Statistics:
Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.
So what can YOU do to stop impaired driving?
1. The obvious, of course, is don’t drink or drug and drive. It’s just not worth it for so many, many reasons. Always carry cab money and have the number of your cab company in your cell phone. You may want to consider downloading an app – check out Call a Taxi PRO to “Instantly find a taxi-cab, anytime, anywhere,” just $2.99. Even if you don’t need the cab, you may have a friend who does.
2. Understand the information shared in Impaired Driving, 3 Things to Know. It helps to understand that the brain under the influence is NOT a “thinking” brain, thus the potential to “decide” to drive after drinking or drugging can get murky, to say the least. So have an iron clad plan in place before you start the festivities. Designate a driver or have the number of the cab you will call. Period. Don’t kid yourself. As you read in that article, it takes far less than you may realize.
3. If you are hosting a party, yikes! No seriously, it’s a huge responsibility. A few suggestions: 1) for those who are designated drivers, give them a special glass and have an array of alcohol-free beverages and cocktails. Here is a link to bon appétit’s “6 Non-Alcohol Cocktail Recipes That Really Taste Good, 2) have a list of cabs that cover the areas in which your guests live, 3) have cab money – just in case a guest forgot to include cash in their little red purse, 4) cut off all alcohol at least an hour before the party is to end and serve coffee and teas, instead, 5) don’t have a roving server constantly topping off glasses – it’s easier for a guest to keep track of how many they’ve had if they finish the glass before getting a refill (and why is this important if they already have a designated driver? Having too much too drink clouds all judgement. Not topping off glasses helps people stay in control of how much they drink, which helps them stay in control and not decide they’re good to drive in the event their designated drive decided to just have a couple after all), and 6) include in your invitation some language along the lines of, Be Sure to Designate a Driver :).
Granted, these suggestions may sound like babysitting or that you don’t trust your guests, but let’s face it, the statistics shared above show we must work together to pull out all the stops to end impaired driving.