Each day in the United States, approximately 28 individuals lose their lives to auto accidents that involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol. That equals one DUI-related death about every 53 minutes. However, the number of deaths and severe injuries can be reduced by raising public awareness and educating drivers about the impact driving under the influence has throughout the nation.
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The Scope of DUI In America
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DUI incidents have a significant impact on lives throughout the United States. Statistics on the CDC website reveal that:
- More than 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2014 alone. Yet that is only one percent of self-reported DUI incidents each year.
- In about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes, drugs other than alcohol were involved.
- Nearly one-third of all traffic deaths in 2014 (9,967) were alcohol related.
- Almost 20 percent (209) of the 1,070 children ages 14 and under who lost their lives in traffic crashes were associated with an alcohol-impaired driver. Of those, more than half (116) were riding with a driver who was impaired.
Who is at the Highest Risk for DUI?
While anyone can become a victim of a DUI crash, some drivers are more likely than others to get behind the wheel while impaired.
According to the CDC, younger people are the most likely to drink and drive at all blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. Among those with BAC levels at or above 0.08 percent, about 30 percent were between the ages of 21 and 24 in 2014. Following closely behind were individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 (29 percent) and 35 and 44 (24 percent).
Of the motorcycle drivers who lost their lives in 2014, approximately 29 percent had a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater. The highest percentage of deaths (about 40 percent in 2013) among motorcyclists were people ages 40 through 49.
Individuals With Previous Convictions for DUI
Drivers with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater who were involved in deadly car crashes in 2014 were seven times more likely to have had a previous DUI conviction than those who had no alcohol in their system.
The Effects of BAC
In the United States, it’s not uncommon for adults to stop for a drink or two after a long day’s work, or to enjoy a couple of drinks with dinner. While just a few relaxing drinks might seem innocent enough, they can quickly affect the individual’s driving ability. According to the CDC:
- After just 2 alcoholic drinks (0.02 percent BAC), a person can typically expect to experience a slight loss of judgment, a decline in visual functioning, and difficulty performing two tasks at once.
- After consuming 3 alcoholic beverages (0.05 percent BAC), the individual may begin having difficulty with coordination, trouble steering, reduced ability to track moving objects, and impaired response to emergency situations while driving.
- Consuming about 4 alcoholic drinks can bring an individual’s BAC over the legal limit (0.08percent). Typical effects include impaired perception, difficulty with concentration and coordination, and impaired ability to process information or recognize danger. Speed control can also be difficult.
- When 7 or more alcoholic beverages have been consumed, significant impairment of reaction time, information processing and the ability to control a vehicle can occur.
In the United States, the standard drink size is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or a 1.5 ounce “shot” of distilled spirits or hard liquor.
Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Impaired Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined a number of strategies to be effective in reducing the number of drunk driving accidents in recent years.
In Chicago and surrounding areas, police may set up sobriety checkpoints to check for driver impairment. These checkpoints must be in specific, highly visible areas. Police may briefly stop all or only a certain portion of drivers. When impairment is suspected, breath tests can be given for verification of intoxication.
Ignition interlocks are commonly used for individuals who have been convicted of DUI. When installed, they measure the amount of alcohol that is on the driver’s breath. If the alcohol level is above a certain level, the interlock prevents the vehicle from starting. Ignition interlocks have proven highly effective at preventing repeat DUI offenses.
Mass media campaigns are designed to increase public awareness about the legal consequences and physical dangers of driving while intoxicated. They also encourage people to help prevent others from getting behind the wheel after drinking.