Larson News

Some Surprising Facts About the Continued Prevalence of Drinking and Driving

The past few decades have seen the advent of anti-drinking and driving organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), aimed at educating society about the dangers of mixing alcohol with a gas pedal. While statistics indicate the prevalence of drinking and driving is lower than it has been in years gone by, the problem still exists.

Just under 30 million drunk people got behind the wheel of a vehicle on American roadways in 2011 according to the Center For Disease Control. This means that 11.1 percent of the nation older than 12 drank and drove. This percentage is a slight decrease from the 14.2 percent reported in 2002. Statistics show that every day, approximately 300,000 drunk drivers travel the roadways.

Deaths caused by drinking and driving continue to be problematic for American society. More than 10,000 people died unnecessarily in traffic wrecks related to alcohol in 2010, and over 200 of those killed were kids under the age of 14. Of all the children killed in alcohol related traffic wrecks, more than half were riding with the drunk driver when they died. In approximately 18 percent of substance abuse traffic deaths, alcohol was mixed with whatever drug the driver ingested before getting on the road, according to the CDC.

In the effort to curb drunk driving accidents and deaths, states across the country have implemented progressively stricter laws, restrictions and punishments regarding drinking and driving. While the fees, fines, jail sentences and other incentives not to drink and drive continue to climb, it doesn’t seem to be enough to eradicate the problem entirely. According to the Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 1.2 million drivers found themselves handcuffed and charged with Driving Under the Influence in 2011. Men are twice as likely to drink and drive according to the report, with 15.1 percent of males admitting to being inclined to do so compared to the 7.9 percent of their female counterparts. If we were to send every person who admitted to driving while drunk to a specifically dedicated land as its own state, it would be the fifth largest state in the nation.

If you think this will not affect you because you never drink and drive, think again. United States residents have a one in three chance of being involved in an alcohol related traffic wreck during their lifetime.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that law enforcement statistics may under-represent the number of traffic wrecks actually related to drunk drivers. According to the NTSB the actual number of alcohol-related traffic deaths or serious injuries is as high as 22.6 percent of all wrecks. This is significantly higher than the 14.4 percent that the national law enforcement records report.

Of all crashes, alcohol-related ones are some of the most preventable. These statistics are easily within our power as a nation to change, and we can eradicate drunk driving crashes completely, if we want to. Through a combination of civil and criminal law enforcement, and education, we are starting to see the results. As a society we have begun to change the culture of drinking and driving in our communities.

However, as the statistics show, there is more work to be done. For adults, it begins with each of us making a personal commitment to never drink and drive a motor vehicle. And beyond that, we owe it to young people to be role models of the conduct we expect from them. Drawing a line for your child by making clear that underage drinking is never acceptable is one of the most powerful tools in a parent’s arsenal to keep them alive. And beyond that, leading by example with your own conduct demonstrates consistency, and empowers our young adults to help us improve these statistics in generations to come.