Drinking and Driving
You might think by now that people would have gotten the message that drinking and driving don't mix. But an investigation of young Americans who drive after drinking shows otherwise.
The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse monitors reports and surveys on the subject of drinking and driving. The Institute reports that in 2007, about 19 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 drove after drinking. This was an improvement over 2002, when the statistic was 22 percent in this age group. When you break out some individual groups, the statistics are even grimmer.
Among Non-Hispanic Caucasian youth, 23 percent of the 18-20 year olds reported driving after drinking, down from 27 percent in 2002. The most serious situation showed up among Native American males. In 2006, 38 percent of Native American males drove after drinking. But even this was an improvement over 2006 when the statistic was 42 percent.
These risks are taken by American youth despite the fact that the majority of US states have a mandatory license suspension or revocation laws for any alcohol/driving infractions among those under 21
Drunk Driving Wipes Out Equivalent of One Medium-Sized City Each Year
The US has wider tolerance for over-21 drivers than many other countries, considering that a blood alcohol content (BAC) needs to reach .08 percent to be illegal. Matching the US limits on alcohol content are Canada, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand,
Norway, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
While American alcohol-related traffic fatalities have been decreasing since their high level in 1961, still, tens of thousands of people die from this cause each year. In 2008, the number was 37,261 people dying each year from alcohol-related accidents.
Motorcycle crashes involving alcohol added another 13,041 deaths. Add the two together and you're wiping out a medium-sized city every year from a completely preventable cause.
It's been shown that those who drink frequently are responsible for the majority of traffic fatalities. In the US and Canada, it was found that nearly two-thirds of drinking drivers who cause fatalities and 72 percent of those who hit and killed pedestrians had blood alcohol contents of 1.5 percent or above - almost double the legal limit. Experts estimate that this type of driver will not be dissuaded by legal limitations on BAC.
European Restrictions on Drinking and Driving Vary Widely
Laws across Europe mostly vary, with some countries considering .8mg/mL (milligrams per milliliter, the European method of measuring blood alcohol) of blood illegal and others setting the limit at .5mg/mL. Sweden is the most restrictive of all the European countries with a limit of .2mg/mL.
Using the US system of measuring, thirty countries around the world (including most of the major countries in Europe) consider anything above .05 percent BAC illegal.
But you would definitely be advised NOT to drink anything if you are going to drive in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Hungary. These countries all have zero tolerance laws.
In Japan, a driver can be charged with inebriated driving simply on the observation of the arresting officer.
Since Laws Don't Work, What is the Solution?
In some countries, a change of the BAC limit has resulted in lower traffic accidents and fatalities, but no changes even come to close to eliminating them. Australia has claimed a reduction of traffic fatalities through vigorous use of breath tests to detect alcohol use. There will always be people who think they can drive safely when they really can't. In the US, a broad advertising campaign sought to educate people that "buzzed" driving is really drunk driving to counter any mistaken ideas.
Prevention is an important part of eliminating this problem - educating young people on the consequences of driving under any alcoholic influence at all, making sure they know the risks they are taking by failing to designate a sober driver. But prevention is too late for someone who already craves alcohol on a regular basis. Some people never pass a sober weekend. Some people consume alcohol daily. For these people, a law or a class will never be enough. These people need alcohol rehab.
When a person can't quit drinking despite tickets or accidents, when they decide to quit and then don't, when they are experiencing damage to their relationships, their career plans, their finances, their health or their legal situation, all these things are definite signs that an alcohol treatment program is needed to resolve the situation fully and for good.
This is when tens of thousands of families over the last forty years have sought the help of the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Found in more than 120 locations around the world, the Narconon treatment and education centers reach out into the community to prevent the damage that results from alcohol abuse, and if it is too late for that, provide long-term inpatient alcohol recovery. Since seven out of every ten graduates from the Narconon rehab program stay clean after they go home, this is a lot of drivers on the road who are no longer endangering others. These are now people who can live productive, enjoyable lives instead of being robbed of happy futures by alcohol abuse.
Narconon Drug Information Department