“911, what’s your emergency?” No one ever wants to receive a call knowing a friend or family member has been involved in an accident related to drunk driving. I personally experienced this two years ago when I was informed that a friend from church was in a car accident and was taken to the hospital. At the hospital, the police informed the family that the cause of the accident was due to a drunk driver that crossed over into oncoming traffic causing my friend to swerve off the road and overturn her car.
After three days in the ICU, my friend had succumbed to her injuries and passed away. From this accident, the driver received minimal consequences for their actions even though this was not his first offense in drinking and driving. So, I became determined to find a way to make punishments for avoidable actions such as DUI or DWI more severe and maybe someday, preventable.
Alcohol consumption is an accepted practice in many parts of the world.
This epidemic knows no boundaries; it affects people of all races, religions, backgrounds, and age groups. The age of legal consumption of alcohol differs in countries around the world, but in the United States, the legal age to consume alcohol is twenty-one. Examples of this acceptance are the many advertisements in magazines and on television for an array of alcoholic beverages. Social approval is noted in the amount of liquor stores and bars in each community. How many work parties, weddings, and social gatherings with friends and families include alcohol? People drink to socialize, celebrate and relax.
Throughout the years and even today, there is a struggle to understand and manage the power that alcohol has on us. People knowingly partake in drinking alcohol with the desired side effects of endorphin release from the brain.
The question that does not seem to have an answer is, how much is too much? Without a solid answer to this question, people imbibe quantities of alcohol that render them incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely. The dilemma is the consumption of alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and attempting to drive. How is this still sweeping the nation, even though punishments are in place? Would harsher punishments for first time offenders help curtail the desire to over indulge? Should people choose to repeat this heinous infraction, an even more stiff penalty awaits. With the modernization of taxi services such as Uber and Lyft, harsher punishments should be put into place for drinking and driving offenders.
One of the most influential ways to reformation of any kind is to have the popular vote, or public majority behind the general idea. Since its birth in 1980, MADD has been at the forefront of raising awareness, promoting education to the public, and influencing policymakers to see the grim reality this epidemic casts amongst its victims. Bewilderingly, “first time offenders drive drunk on an average of 80 times before they are arrested for this detestable transgression” (“Mother Against Drunk Driving”). How is this possible? “In 2012, Texas led the nation with 1,296 drunk driving fatalities. Statistically, drunk drivers account for more than one-third of traffic fatalities and at least 345,000 traffic injuries, annually” (“Mothers Against Drunk Driving”).
In addition, a committee of National medicine performed a study of factors that will prevent drinking and driving accidents from occurring. For instance, the article states, “Ignition interlocks—breath alcohol analyzers connected to a vehicle’s ignition system—are effective at preventing impaired driving, but only as long as they are in place (7). The current report recommends mandating interlocks for all DUI convictions, including ﬁrst convictions, and keeping them installed for a minimum of 2 years” (Teutsch and Naimi 2018). Another source that is performed by a University of Health Science, does a study on college students alcohol consumption. This study is done to show the percentage of contributing factors of why students tend to drink.
From 1,150 students that were asked to help with this study, the article states, “Of all the factors that prompted subjects to drink alcohol, the factors in order were: social gatherings(61.5%),lifestyle adaptation(25.9%), academic stress (20.6%), peer pressure (18.09%) and emotional stress/depression(17.7%)” (Apoorva 2014 ). Although these statistics are from college students, many people are possibly pressured to drink from these emotional and environmental aspects as well. Another reference that relates my topic to social responsibility is done by a Control Center of Disease Protection. This organization displays the BAC count with how many drinks one has, and the effects on driving with a certain amount of BAC level in one’s system. For example, the website shows the effects of driving when one has hit the illegal limit .08% of BAC as it states, “.08% which is about 4 alcoholic drinks will show possible effects on driving that include: concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability, and impaired perception” (2017)
A very important resource written by an attorney states laws and penalties of DWI convictions. This is useful information as many people do not know what the consequences are or how different states have different rules. An example is when the article expresses that, “In some states, there’s a “wash-out” (or “look-back”) period for DWI/DUI convictions. And drunk driving convictions that are older than the wash-out period don’t count as priors. However, Texas doesn’t have a wash-out period for DWIs—meaning a DWI conviction stays on your record and counts as a prior conviction forever” (McCurley 2017). Lastly, a source done by a law office states possible solution to take when one plans to drink.
Such as the website states, “If you plan to drink, make plans for not driving. Plan a ride home before you go to a bar or anywhere you will be drinking. With Uber and Lyft available in so many cities today, there really is no excuse for getting behind the wheel after you have been drinking.” (Nathan 2018) Also, another solution is “If you have been drinking and do not have a ride home, you need to call a taxi or a ride service to get home safe. The NHTSA has a SaferRide app that you can use on your cell phone to call a family member or friend for a ride. It will pinpoint your exact location and help you to arrange to be picked up” (Nathan 2018). With so many resources and possible actions that we can control to prevent this problem, there needs to be more enforcement and consequences to scare people away from drinking and driving.
No amount of slogans will make people think twice about drinking and driving, and for reasons unknown, people choose not to call a friend or designate a driver. Maybe they think they’re stable enough to get behind the wheel. They might possibly think they didn’t get caught last time, so what’s the difference in that ride and this one? With the amount of consequences already instilled into the law, looking at the statistics provided, the amount of drunk drivers seems to increase rather than decrease. For instance, according to NOLO, “Jail time for first offense is 3 days to 6 months, second offense is 30 to a year, and third offense is 2 to 10 years.” (McCurley 2017).
Also, NOLO stated the amount of fines such as, “1st offense is 2,000 dollars maximum, 2nd offense is 4,000 maximum, and third offense is 10,000 maximum.” (McCurley 2017). However, with these consequences already in effect, people are still repeating the same actions. Thus, I have seen that minimal consequences will not prevent them from drinking and driving again. Therefore, stricter punishments should be put into place for those first-time offenders, possibly deterring them from any repeat actions such as: doubling the fines, longer jail time, mandatory community service, and even suspending their license for up to 6 months. The consequences must be severe enough to intrude on the offender’s life on the first violation.
As there are laws and penalties for drunk driving, increasing the consequences will provide a scare tactic for people who are involved with this action. Drinking and driving is not an accident, it is an intentional act. When people go out for an evening of dinner and dancing, many times they plan on having a couple of drinks. Their intention is to relax and have a good time, not to be over the legal limit and hurt someone while driving home. While it is understood people make mistakes, the proposal of penalizations costing these criminals an astronomical amount of money, as well as a fraction of their reputation would theoretically make them think twice about their actions and the possible repercussions. Lawyers and prosecutors hold murderers accountable, especially those with blatant intent, so the juxtaposition of letting wrongdoers off easily is completely unacceptable. This problem can be a life or death situation, so making wise choices to not drink and drive not only helps one from protecting themselves but others as well.
Being accountable for preventing drinking and driving helps society in several aspects. These aspects include: less accidents occurring, reduces the risk of diseases, and less family problems from aggression and violence. Although, the most important factor in preventing alcoholism is it helps preserve lives; other positive factors include saving money from paying hospital bills, expensive treatments, and the cost of paying bail. Mandatory education of the side effects of alcohol needs to be introduced at the elementary level with increased teachings throughout high school. Advertising on the television, magazines, and social media must stop. Remember, we the people are responsible for making the next generation better than the last. We can only do this if we can come together as a nation and agree on increased education along with harsher punishments for those that break the law.
In reiteration, the senseless loss of life due to drunk driving must come to an end. Unless one has personally felt the pain caused by a drunk driver, I do not believe the general public realizes the true number of victims each year. So many have senselessly lost their lives due to the carelessness of another. Harsher punishments for first offenders must be enforced. With newly enforced standards, maybe people will reconsider their actions prior to drinking and driving. The increase in fines and loss of freedom for first offenders is a good place to start. Finding a way to hold restaurants and bar owners accountable for patrons that overindulge is a much harder task to tackle. With having advantages that can prevent drunk driving, we as people need to take a stand in promoting coarse consequences to the state’s government starting with Texas, as it is historically an influence on other states. How many people must die from this act before we respond?