It is estimated that we will share the roads today with over 2 million people who have had at least 2 drinking and driving incidents. For this reason alone, I rarely go out and party on New Years Eve unless I can spend the night wherever I am at.
In 2006, an estimated 17,602 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes —an average of one every 30 minutes.
In 2005 Alcohol-related traffic fatalities accounted for 39% of all traffic fatalities.
At least once a year, the guidelines for low risk drinking are exceeded by an estimated 74% of male drinkers and 72% of female drinkers aged 21 and older. Males are four times as likely as females to be heavy drinkers.
65% of youth surveyed said that they got the alcohol they drink from family and friends.
Statistics, gory pictures, nor the law seems to deter people from drinking and driving. But if more people continue to report drunk drivers and the laws continue to get tougher, then maybe we can make a dent in the statistics.
I should preface this blog post by stating that I’ve personally known people who have been killed by drunk drivers. I have several friends who have been seriously injured, spending months in hospitals and years in physical therapy. Therefore, I find it difficult to feel sorry for someone who chooses to drink and drive.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, I noticed road signs were posted along my commute route, asking people to report drunk drivers. And our electronic message boards over the freeways were (and are) asking the same: Report Drunk Drivers, Call 911.
The first time I reported a drunk driver I felt a slight twinge of guilt. I’m not sure why. But that was a long time ago. Now, I don’t hesitate to call 911 to report an inebriated driver. In fact, I called CHP 2 months ago when coming home from work on a Friday night when I saw a driver weaving all over the highway. In all my years of driving this was the worst offense I had ever seen. The car would veer off to the right side of the road, then a moment later end up in the next lane. It was a challenge to anticipate just where the car would end up next. I dropped back my speed to make sure I was well behind the driver. The woman driving in the lane next to me did the same thing. Together, we ensured that all other cars were well behind the offender. Additionally, we followed the driver until he exited off the highway, eventually taking a wrong turn down a dead end road. We cornered the car and driver, while we were both on the phone with CHP, providing a full description of the car, license number and location.
I have no idea of the outcome for that driver, but I hope he got what he deserved, at the bare minimum being taken off the road until he sobered up.
Friends of my sister have found a great solution for their annual New Years Eve party. Keys are checked in at the door. If you’re not drunk when ready to leave, you get your keys back. If you do drink too much, you have an invitation to spend the night at their place, or take a cab home. This is their standard protocol and people understand this, up front, when they arrive. This is responsible party throwing.
I remember my first office holiday party at the young age of 21. I was drunk. Very drunk. I refused offers from anyone at the party to drive me home. I called everyone I knew in my little black book. No one was home, except for my parents. While I felt humiliated to have to call my mother to come pick me up, she did, and I arrived home safely. My parents were actually glad I called. There was no finger pointing, nor lecture. They thanked me for having been responsible.
If you plan to party hardy tonight, enjoy yourself! But please carry cab fare, sign up a friend, or family member, as a designated driver (many coffee places are will be open and offer free coffee for designated drivers), or plan to stay put after you start drinking. Whatever you choose remember that drunk driving is not an accident. Driving drunk is a choice. You have a choice, unlike the innocent victims who will cross your path.
And if, by chance, you cross a drunk driver tonight, or any other night, turn them in. Call 911 and get them off the road. You just might save a life.