Every person is accountable for his or her own “right to drink”. Failure to treat this or any “right” responsibly has consequences. The person’s “right” can and should be taken away when the failure to act responsibly endangers other.
Today I would like to talk to you about the problems of drinking and driving, and why it is a concern for all of us.
Main Point I:
I’d like to start off by talking about the penalties of drinking and driving. Did you know that drunk driving is the nation’s most frequently committed violent crime? A chronic drunk driver is a person who has driven over 1,000 times before being caught. They do not respond to social pressures, law enforcement, and the messages that have been combined to reform the drinking and driving behavior of our society. Given the highly disproportionate role that these people play in drunk driving incidents, injuries, and fatalities, it would be wise to put our focus on them. The chronic drunk drivers comprise only a small percentage of all the drivers, yet they cause the most accidents. Studies have found that 21 to 34 year olds make up approximately half of all the drunk drivers that are in alcohol-related fatal accidents. They are also responsible for more fatal accidents than any other age group, and seem to have the highest blood alcohol content. This is where the biggest problem is, considering that they are resistant to change their drinking patterns and behavior. About a third of all drivers arrested for DWI’s are repeat offenders according to data gathered in 13 states.
Every single injury and death caused by a drunk driver is totally preventable. Know your limit! If you are not sure what your limit is experiment at home with a responsible person. Most people find that they can drink about one drink per hour without any ill effects. It is illegal for a bar or restaurant to serve an intoxicated person in all but four states. Nearly three out of four (about 72%) of the driving age think that penalties for drinking and driving should be more severe, and half of those think much more severe.
On November 7, 2000 Montana residents will have the opportunity to vote on the DUI Inititative No. 135. In Section 1 makes it unlawful for licensed establishments to sell to a restricted person – under alcohol licensing laws. Section 2 provides a civil liability as well as criminal liability for any person providing alcohol to a person restricted from purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol. Individuals in their own homes, medical, and religious uses are excluded. Section 3 provides administrative action to be taken upon a licensed establishment violating the terms of licensing. Section 5 will make it illegal to buy alcohol if restricted; and last, Section 7 provides that the punishment for a conviction of a drinking and driving violation shall include an alcohol restriction, with the restriction noted on the person’s license. When you go to vote, vote yes on Inititative No. 135.
Montana is 1 of the 22 states that does not have an open container law and is also one of the few states that does not revoke the drivers license of the person who is convicted of a DUI. Research shows that 75 percent of those with suspended licenses will drive illegally, depending on the length of the sentence. A disturbing phenomenon is that many of these individuals are not choosing to have their license renewed once their sentences have been completed; the typical jail sentence for most drunk drivers is two to three days and, “this amount of non-driving time does not have much impact in terms of drinking and driving.” Additionally, jail time removes people from their every day lives and people can lose their jobs and the support of family members. In short, everything familiar that could serve as support is taken away. Research shows that after they are released, convicted drunk drivers are just as likely to commit additional offenses as are offenders who are not jailed. Approximately 79% of legally drunk drivers have blood alcohol contents greater than .15 and 52% exceed .20, 99% of people who are of driving age consider drunk drivers a threat to themselves and their families.
Main Point II:
Next I would like to talk about accidents and the potential dangers there are with drunk drivers on the road. I would like to start out by telling you a story that is written by Kathleen Buenemann, Donette’s mother.
On the night of August 8th, 1996, after finishing her shift at work, Donette was on her way home. A 29-year-old female left the “beer garden” at the county fair, around 11 PM. This girl had been there most of the night drinking. She managed to avoid the police and found her way through town in her Mercedes. Just outside of the city limits of town, she crossed the centerline and sideswiped a Jeep, the full length, and proceeded on across the line and hit my daughter’s ’95 Neon, nearly head-on. My daughter’s car was spun around and flipped on the drivers side and slid down and embankment, and came to a rest. A 3rd car drove through the point of impact and was untouched. The 4th car was hit by the debris from my daughter’s car, but no injuries there. My daughter had tried to move to the shoulder, but the other car continued on to hit her. Donette had her seat belt on and the air bags did deploy, but because of where the impact was the steering wheel went between the front seats so fast that the bag was of no use. Donette’s head struck the A post and then the pavement when the car turned on its side. They said she died instantly of massive head injuries and never felt any pain. I still wonder and have nightmares about this.
Our daughter lay in her car, dead, while they attended to the drunk. Her dad was on his way home from work an hour later, on the same road and was detoured around the crash onto another road, not knowing it was Donette. He hadn’t been home very long when we got the horrible knock on the door that forever rings in my head. The shock, the screaming, and the pain when your heart has been torn to shreds. Trying to make sense of it all, trying to find out where she is and that you can’t go to her immediately, because she has been taken to a strange, cold morgue.
The next hardest thing I’ve had to do outside of burying my daughter was to read the medical reports. How do you continue on knowing that her life drained from her ears, and that every major organ in her body was dislodged. The beautiful child, a gift from God, that you created, taken from you in a flash by an irresponsible drunk person, who made the choice to drink and then get in a car and drive. There is no excuse good enough that will ever satisfy us that this was an accident. It was no accident that this person, took that first drink and “chose” to “allow” herself to get in the drunken state, with a blood alcohol content of .18. This drunken persons injuries have healed, ours never will. Pain is our constant companion!
Most drivers who have had something to drink have low blood alcohol content and very few are involved in fatal crashes. On the other hand, while only a few drivers have blood alcohol contents higher than .15, many of those drivers have fatal accidents. The average blood alcohol content among fatally injured drunk drivers is .17, and almost half of fatally injured drunk drivers have a blood alcohol content of .20 or higher. With a blood alcohol content of .15 you increase your fatal accident rate 200 times, at .20 you increase the rate 460 times. Drunk drivers have slowed reaction and impaired judgment, they cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths every year according to federal estimates. Here are some DUI statistics-
o In 1990, more than half of the fatal car accidents in this country were related to alcohol, killing 22,083 people. This is the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing. Three times a week. Every week.
o In the past decade, four times as many Americans died in drunk driving accidents as were killed in the Vietnam War.
o About two in every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident at some time in their lives.
o In 1995, in Montana, 42.3% of the traffic fatalities were alcohol related.
o 21-34 Year old drinking drivers comprise approximately half of all the drunk drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes, and they have the highest blood alcohol concentrations in fatal accidents.
o Hard Core drunk drivers account for only 1% of all the drivers on the road at night and on weekends, while representing nearly half of all fatal accidents at that time.
o The cost for each injured survivor of an alcohol-related crash averaged $67,000, including $6,000 in health care costs and $13,000 in lost productivity.
o A drunk driving accident cost innocent victims $26,000. Comparable crime cost per victim: assault--$19,000; robbery--$13,000; motor vehicle theft--$4,000.
While we must do even more to reduce drinking and driving, we have already accomplished a great deal. Alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents have declined steadily since 1987 and recently stood at a 18-year low of 33.6%.; there is only one fatality for every 600,000 miles driven while legally impaired; and finally, alcohol related traffic fatalities per miles driven dropped 55% between 1982 and 1996.
Main Point III:
The last thing that I would like to talk to you about today is the problem of underage drinking and driving. Did you know that it is believed that the average young person will have seen 100,00 beer commercials between the age of 2 and 18? Teens and other young people are over-represented in drunk driving accidents because they tend to be relatively inexperienced drivers, inexperienced consumers of alcohol, more likely to use illegal drugs, and they have a false sense of invincibility and immortality. People 16 to 24 years old are involved with about 28% of all alcohol-related driving accidents, although they make up 14% of the population. Fortunately driving accidents are declining among the young people. Deaths associated with young drunk drivers has dropped 47% in the last 15 years.
Alcohol is a big part of society and the majority of Americans enjoy alcoholic beverages. To pretend that young people will grow up to enter a world of abstinence is both unrealistic and irresponsible. The drinking problems on campus are a self-fulfilling prophecy. People go off to college falsely believing that “everybody is drinking heavily,” then they tend to conform in order to fit in as a student. Those who exaggerate the problem of alcohol abuse actually contribute to the problem and make it worse.
Remember that the typical bottle of beer, glass of wine or spirits drink (shots or a mixed drink) each contains the same amount of alcohol. When it comes to alcohol content, a drink is a drink is a drink….they’re all the same to a breathalyzer.
THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK!!
Hanson, David J. Alcohol Problems and Solutions. Sociology Department, State University of New York
The Learning Network. Carnegie Melon University
Forbes, Steve. “Here We Go Again.” Forbes 6 August 1990 v146 n3 p20 (1)
“Under the Influence.” People Weekly 17 July 2000 v54 i3 p63+
“Motor vehicle traffic fatalities and alcohol-related fatalities.” Triangle Business Journal (Raleigh, NC) 10 September 1999 v15 i1 p49
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