The number of Americans driving under the influence has inched downward fairly consistently since the late 1980s. Tying federal highway funding to states imposing a legal drinking age of 21 helped start the trend. Equally important have been campaigns to educate people about the risks and realities of taking the wheel while intoxicated.
As longtime personal injury and wrongful death attorneys who have represented too many victims of drunk driving crashes in Virginia and North Carolina, my law firm colleagues and I celebrate each informed decision by a drinker to stay home or hand over the keys. But too many Americans continue making the wrong, dangerous and too-often deadly choice to drive under the influence.
If you have read this far, scroll down a little farther to learn how you can prevent drunk driving and possibly save a life.
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A Persistent Problem
On its web-based drunk driving factsheet, the CDC reports
- 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes on U.S. roads during 2016, accounting for 28 percent of fatal collisions that year.
- 214 of the people killed in alcohol-related crashes during 2016 were children younger than 14 years of age.
- 111 million American admit to driving under the influence at least once during an average year, but only 1 million DUI arrests were made in 2016.
Those shocking figures largely omit the carnage inflicted by drugged drivers. According to the CDC, “Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes.”
Virginia and North Carolina residents are not spared. During 2019, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 264 deaths and 4,402 injuries in alcohol-related crashes. A year earlier, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles recorded 280 traffic deaths from crashes in which at least one driver had a measurable blood alcohol concentration. Only 23 of the state’s traffic fatalities for 2018 resulted from crashes in which alcohol use was not a possible factor.
Solutions You Can Implement Immediately
Do not take any of the following suggestions as legal advice. Do, however, consider how acting on these five recommendations from a range of experts will keep everyone safer and healthier.
- Drink sparingly or abstain completely if you intend to drive. Just one 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine or standard shot of liquor slows reflexes and dulls senses.
- Report erratic drivers. Pull over before picking up your phone. Distracted driving can cause the same problems as driving under the influence.
- Arrange for guests to stay the night or get rides home if you host an event at which alcohol will be served. This matters in North Carolina, in particular, as state courts have recognized liability for social hosts.
- Consider supporting a group such as MADD or SADD that offers educational materials and does advocacy to end drunk driving.
- Encourage local and state lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at stopping repeated offender drunk drivers.
And, finally, just do not drive after consuming alcohol or ingesting drugs that cause drowsiness, impair coordination or alter perceptions. Taking personal responsibility is the best idea of all.