Driving while intoxicated or impaired driving, whether by
alcohol, other drugs, or alcohol and other drugs combined, is one of the greatest health
and safety problems in America. It is by far one of the largest single criminal causes of
accidents and death throughout the country, and is one of the most preventable social
problems we have,
At highest risk are young people. DWI
is the NUMBER ONE KILLER of youth under the age of 25. Those between the ages of 16
and 19 are in the most danger. One study found that older drivers (20 years old or older)
with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15% or higher were about 100 times more likely to
be involved in a fatal accident than those with no alcohol in their blood. But 16-to-20
year olds with such a BAC were 400 times more likely to die
than same-aged drivers who had not been drinking.
While alcohol is the most widely used drug and the one most
often linked to motor vehicle accidents, other drugs also impair driving... especially
when combined with alcohol. Since driving involves such basic skills as attention,
judgment, perception, decision making, physical reaction and coordination, drivers under
the influence of any drug pose road safety hazards and lead to more fatal and non-fatal
accidents. In one study at a Trauma Unit, 40% of those admitted tested positive for drugs
other than alcohol. The most commony found drugs were cannabis, tranquilizers, and
cocaine. There were also cases of accident victims under the influence of other
The STOP-DWI Program in New York State has been one of the
most successful prevention programs of this caliber. The comprehensive strategy has
utilized law enforcement, public policy, judicial efficiency, a comprehensive prevention
campaign, a Drinking Driver Program and Treatment for the chemically dependent, and has
had a tremendous impact. Since 1980 when the program was first implemented, the liklihood
of being involved in a DWI crash has fallen by more than 70%.
Driving while intoxicated is not a victimless crime. In
fact, it is one area where community groups have developed to addresss the issue in a no
nonsense manner. Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID), Mothers Against Drinking and Driving
(MADD), and Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) are all involved in furthering
the great success that the anti-DWI campaign has had. Even the federal government has
increased Stop-DWI efforts with the annual December 3-D Awareness Month (Drinking,
Drugging and Driving).
DWI is a community-wide problem, and needs a community-wide
response. Contact your legislators and let them know that the community needs a strong
anti-DWI program. Most importantly, be sure that you do not drink or use and substances
while you drive and that you are not a participant in someone else drinking or drugging
and driving. Take DWI seriously, it is the only way we can make amends to those who
senselessly lost their lives.
ALCOHOL-RELATED FATALITIES DECREASE
The Number of
Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities in the United States dropped to 15,935 in 1998,
lowest level in 17 years.
The figure dropped 1.5% from the year
before, when alcohol was involved in 16,189 crash deaths, according to a federal
government study released on September 1st, 1999.
The number of young people killed in alcohol-related crashes also
dropped to a record low.
In 2000, DWI fatalities did increase for the first time in five years. In 2000, 40 percent
of highway accident deaths involved alcohol (16,653 of the 41,812 total deaths), up by 2
percent from 1999.!