The holidays are in full swing and that means plenty of holiday parties. These gatherings are great fun, filled with good company, bad gifts, and good drinks. Most of us have hit the eggnog a little too hard at one time or another, but all too often someone will also get behind the wheel afterward. This decision can alter the lives of many people in the blink of an eye.
Drunk driving is a serious issue in America. According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, there were 9,878 DUI-related deaths in 2011. This equates to a DUI-related death every 53 minutes. Add to that the fact that someone is injured every 90 seconds as a result of a DUI-related incident.
Repeat offenders are a real issue in the United States. MADD’s website states: “About one third of all drivers arrested or convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol are repeat offenders.” For instance, Massachusetts ranks 40th out of 51 states (Washington, DC is listed as a separate entity) for drunk driving. The ranking is based on the number of DUI-related traffic deaths in each state, with number one having the lowest percentage and number 51 having the highest percentage. Thirty-six percent of all traffic deaths in Massachusetts are DUI-related. There have been 115 DUI fatalities in the most recent year, an increase of 8.5 percent from the previous year. In comparison, Rhode Island ranks 46th overall, but has had a 26 percent decrease in DUI fatalities from the prior year. According to the most recent figures, there are 22,253 people who have been caught drunk driving three times and 4,840 who have been caught five times in Massachusetts. Other states that rank worse than Massachusetts in drunken driving statistics do not have this high a number of repeat offenders.
Another interesting statistic: Vermont has one of the lowest numbers of DUI-related traffic deaths at 18. While the number of deaths did not change from 2010 to 2011, the percentage of deaths related to drunk driving rose from 25 percent to 33 percent. Another indication of the severity of the problem. Visit www.madd.org to view where your state ranks in drunk driving statistics.
Some states have a mandatory Ignition Interlock program in effect where repeat offenders are required to have a breathalyzer system installed in their vehicle. The vehicle can only be started after the driver blows into the device to show they are under the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Based on the statistics listed above, this is not curbing the problem. Something more must be done and harsher penalties for repeat offenders is only part of the solution.
The real solution rests with every driver in America. Make the conscious decision to call a cab or have a sober friend drive home if you have had too much to drink. This Christmas holiday, drink responsibly and drive sober.