Whenever I attend a party, I’m usually the designated driver. It’s the least I can do for my friends. I’m not trying to be a hero or special, I do it so I can have a clear conscience and sleep peacefully at night. I’m not much of a drinker, so it’s easy for me to enjoy only soft drinks when I go out. When the party is over, we all climb into the ol’ Camry, and I drop them off at their homes. It’s worth the extra time I spend.
It’s easy to understand why December has been designated National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. This is the time of year when more people might risk getting behind the wheel while under a chemical influence. In addition to the booze and drugs risks, are those of talking, texting or participating in social networks on mobile devices. Don’t vlog and drive. Distracted driving has become a major cause of traffic tragedy.
In the United States, drunken driving accounts for nearly one -third of all traffic fatalities. Also, recently, nearly 4,000 fatally injured drivers tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. To break down the risks, I looked up the domestic statistics from two years ago.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that 32,000,000 people drove vehicles after alcohol and/or drug use. Unsurprisingly, the highest share of them were aged 18 to 25 years-old. 1,168 children 14 and younger were killed in traffic. 20-percent of the fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Out of that number, 239 children were passengers in the same vehicle, driven by an alcohol-impaired driver.
18-percent of traffic fatalities involve substances other than alcohol. Marijuana, cocaine, and prescription medications were the usual culprits. Sometimes attention altering chemicals were used in combination with alcohol.
Whether or not there are accidents, injuries, or fatalities when driving as a result of impaired driving, there are significant consequences to consider when people decide to drive while under the influence of drugs or booze.
There is a good chance of arrest, incarceration, fines, and legal actions. Impaired drivers face penalties for breaking laws and/or lawsuits filed by victims and their families. Impaired drivers should plan on spending a lot of money on lawyer and court fees, plus those much higher insurance premiums. There are other things to lose, as well, like driving privilages and even ones job. At the very least, impaired drivers are often required to attend rehabilitation and treatment programs. Sometimes penalties include the performance of community service.
Impaired driving usually doesn’t involve only the driver. The consequences are also harsh for others who have the misfortune of riding with or being stricken by an impaired driver. Other people might suffer long-term or permanent disabilities from an accident. There are hospital bills and rehabilitation expenses to consider. Impaired drivers are often found responsible for property damage and repair/replacement costs. These costs escalate if law suits are filed for damages.
If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who becomes an impaired driver, you will probably also be held accountable for everything I mentioned above.
The main reason for National Impaired Driving Month is to remind everybody about how to prevent impaired driving. Here is a review of what we should already know:
1. If you will be clubbing or partying give yourself more than enough time to sober up if you are driving, if in doubt, don’t drive at all.
2. Better yet, if you’re going to be out and about, assign a designated driver. Be kind and encourage your designated driver by providing tasty soft drinks.
3. If you’re the host, make sure that your guests have a way to get home with either a designated driver, or by calling a taxi for them.
4. If you are a party host be sure to offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to your guests.
5. If you are with friends who show signs of being drunk or high, confiscate their keys. If you’re sober, you can drive them yourself or accompany them home on transit or in a taxi.
6. All of these precautions apply equally if other types of controlling substances are being consumed at a get-together.
7. You might consider one of the new breathalizer apps for your mobile device to check bodily alcohol levels of your friends and yourself. If the app indicates you’re too drunk to drive, don’t drive.
8. Seriously ask yourself if your conscience would be at peace if a guest or a friend is involved in an injury or fatality accident.
9. Remember that law enforcement agencies increase their efforts to remove impaired drivers from our streets and highways during the holiday season. Do you really want an encounter with a cop these days?
10. Don’t use your mobile devices while driving. Make sure your friends take the same precaution.
It helps to remember that operating a motor vehicle requires clear perception, judgment, memory, and quick motor skills. When consuming substances that alter mental states and/or if we’re distracted by a mobile device or non-driving related activity, we pose a serious danger to ourselves and others.
I know by writing today’s post that I might seem preachy. I’ll take that risk, because I want to make sure my readers and everyone we know do not become victims of a traffic accident.