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The Drunk Driving Epidemic

Ever since there were motorized vehicle conveyances there were drunk drivers. United States laws regarding drunk driving however weren’t enacted until 1910. The law wasn’t very specific; it was intoxication as judged by the arresting officer. As more and more automobiles took to the road, more and more drunk drivers did as well. True laws and enforcement were not implemented until the late 1970’s. With the help of advocates such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD was founded by a mother whose daughter was killed in a drunk driving accident, formal stricter driving while intoxicated laws were mandated. Laws, fines, and penalties still aren’t stopping the epidemic of drunk driving. 

Statistics show the toll of drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting alcohol related statistics in 1982, that year there were 21,113 drunk driving related fatalities. In 2010 that number did decrease to 10,228, but it’s still one too many. 40% of traffic related fatalities were alcohol related in 2006. Over one million drivers were arrested for under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2010, that’s over 2,000 arrests a day. The epidemic now knows no bias towards women. In 1982 only 9% of DWI arrests were women, now that number is consistently over 20%. Age is an overwhelming factor as well. Ages 21-25 account for over 23% of drunk driving, based on MADD statistics as well as arrests, other than arrests voluntarily admitting to driving drunk is also accounted for. Although the rate of women drunk drivers has increased, men are still almost twice as likely to drive while drunk. A real problem is repeat offenders. One third of arrests made for drunk driving are repeat offenders. What is being done to alleviate the problem?

Stricter laws and penalties have been implemented to fight drunk driving. Mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, regardless of an accident is one such move. Refusing to be tested for drunk driving, be it a breathalyzer test or a road sobriety test, results in automatic license suspension. Ignition interlock devices have also been instated to prevent the habitual drunk driver form getting behind the wheel. Like a breathalyzer, the driver has to blow into the device in order to start the vehicle, if the driver is over the legal limit, the car will not start. Stricter alcohol laws against establishments furnishing alcohol to minors have and can also make a difference, since an alarming number of drunk drivers are under 21. Finally, organizations such as MADD, and The Century Council, have used their resources in anti-drunk driving campaigns and lectures throughout the country.

Unfortunately with easy access to alcohol and vehicles, drunk driving will always exist in some form. The best defense is knowledge against the problem. Do not drive drunk yourself, and try to spot and stop others from doing so as well. If it is someone you see at a party, get their keys. If you think you see it on the road, avoid the vehicle yourself and contact the police.