Drinking and Driving Danger

Drinking and driving -- A deadly combination

Every 33 minutes, someone will die in an alcohol-related traffic accident. Although you probably think that it could never happen to you, experts say everyone has a 30-percent lifetime chance of being in a crash involving alcohol use.

According to Gallup surveys for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), drunken driving is our No. 1 highway safety problem. Through education, increased law enforcement and stiffer penalties, the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents can be reduced.

What you can do to protect yourself and others The social drinker
If you drink, be responsible. When with a group, choose a designated driver. Having one person agree to drink only non-alcoholic beverages and provide transportation for other members of the group can save lives.

The good host
Here some things you can do as a host to ensure responsible drinking at a social function:
  • Provide plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink.
  • Serve food to slow the rate of absorption of alcohol.
  • Stop the flow of liquor at least one hour before the party is over.
If guests drink too much, call a cab or arrange a ride with a sober driver.

The encounter with the drunken driver
When you drive, you want to protect yourself and others you love. So, be alert and watch out for impaired drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers under the influence of alcohol often display certain characteristics when on the road:
  • Making wide turns.
  • Weaving, swerving, drifting or straddling the center line.
  • Almost striking an object or vehicle.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Driving at a very slow speed.
  • Stopping without cause.
  • Braking erratically.
  • Responding slowly to traffic signals.
  • Turning abruptly or illegally.
  • Driving after dark with headlights off.
If you are in front of the drunken driver, turn right at the nearest intersection and let him or her pass. If the driver is in front of you, stay a safe distance behind. And if the driver is coming at you, slow down, move to the right and stop.

Stricter laws can help too
Because education and public awareness alone cannot stop drunken driving, stricter laws and enforcement are needed if there is to be significant progress in the ongoing battle against drunken driving.

Lowering the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level from .10 to .08 percent in all states could go a long way toward reducing drunken driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a person's driving ability is already impaired at a mere .02 BAC. A person with a BAC level in the .05-.09 range is nine times more likely to have a crash than a person at zero BAC. Only 28 states and the District of Columbia have this tough standard.

In the continuing fight against drunken driving, the message is clear. If you drink, don't drive. If you're serving alcohol at a party, think safety. After all, while drinking may be considered fun, it isn't fun if you or someone you know gets hurt or dies.

What does the public say about drunken driving?
In Gallup surveys for MADD, public attitudes toward drunken driving were measured.
  • The studies revealed that: Two in five people personally know someone killed or injured by a drunk driver.
  • Three in five people know someone who has been convicted of drunken driving.
  • People are less likely to drink and drive because they fear injuring or killing other people and themselves.
  • Fear of jail is another reason why people are less likely to drive while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they or their friends use a designated driver when they know they're going to be out drinking.
  • More than 50 percent said the penalty for first-offense drunken driving isn't severe enough.
  • More than 70 percent favor random police sobriety checkpoints.