Drunk Driving is dangerous.
Drunk driving can be defined as driving with a specific amount of alcohol in the blood which is also known as the individual BAC. BAC can be measured using the urine, blood as well as breath tests. The acceptable legal limit level for individual BAC in US is 0.08g/100ml. (Cismaru et al,292-5). Drinking under the influence of alcohol is dangerous as it jeopardizes the life of others and self. It is also has enormous economic costs on both the victim if he or she is lucky to be alive as well as the society at large. Alcohol has a depressant effect on people’s brains as well as their nerve pathways which control the muscle actions. Higher levels of alcohol in the blood impair one’s perceptions and judgment, reaction time, information processing as well as their vision. When all this are impaired the chances of involving in an accident are very high. People who drink and drive can easily drive on the wrong side of the road or drive into a ditch, as their vision as well as reasoning has been compromised. The magnitude and intensity in which alcohol affects people largely depend on their physical as well as mental wellness as well as other personal factors. Despite these differences increased consumption of alcohol on any individual leads to increased BAC which predisposes them to more risks of being involved in a traffic accident if they drive. Although there seems to be a general consensus that drunk driving has negative effects, there has always been conflicting views as to how it should be treated. Some argue that it should be criminalized and severe measures adopted to deter it while others dismiss this viewpoint on cost basis. This paper tries to explain the factors as to why drunk driving is dangerous and why it warrants strict or rather severe approaches to deter.
Statistics from various organizations have made it categorically clear that drunk driving brings about more harm than good in the society. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a significant organization in as far as drunk driving is concerned. It was created in 1980 to assist the families of people involved in drunk driving as well as creating awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. MADD statistics have it that in 2002, 2.3% of underage Americans drove after drinking. This rate was 0.2% higher what had been recorded in 1997. MADD further noted that on average a person is killed within 45 minutes by a drunk driver and approximately a tenth of the total American population had been involved in drunken driving incidence. MADD observed that there was laxity in as far as the punitive approaches adopted to fight drunk driving were concerned as 50-75% of those whose licenses had been suspended continued to drive making the punitive measure adopted ineffective. (MADD). Since a higher proportion of young adults aged 19-20 are increasingly consuming alcohol there is a higher risk of their being involved in drunk driving which is associated with many negative effects. (Business Editors & Education Writers). 2000 statistics have it that the US incurred a cost of a$114.3 billion which comprised of the monetary costs as well as the loss in quality of life. The higher cost (63%) was met by other people rather than the driver. The World Health Organization noted that approximately 1.2 million people die annually while over 50 millions others sustain injuries annually in road crashes across the globe. Over 45% of these cases were alcohol related. (Cismaru et al,292). According to the Center Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36 people die in America each day due to alcohol related motor vehicle accidents. It is also estimated that about 700 others are injured in alcohol related accidents. Drunk driving poses a huge economic cost to the American society of approximately 52$billion. The chances of being involved in a fatal accident when driving under the influence of alcohol tend to vary with age. With young people aged 16-20 registering the highest risks especially if they are new drivers. For this age group the males tend to have a higher likelihood of driving when drunk a situation made worse by the fact that the content of alcohol they consume before driving is also high. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The young drivers though a small proportion of the total driving population constitutes a very significant proportion in as far as involvement in alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. If nothing is done to change these trends America will lose the many young people who would have played a critical role in determining the country’s future.
Drunk driving is harmful and has economic costs both at the family level as well as at the government level. Accidents that are likely to occur when people drive under the influence of alcohol have direct economic costs as they lead to damage of property. In some instances the motor vehicles may be extensively damaged or beyond repair but in other instances a motor vehicle repair is all that would be needed. (Cismaru et al,292). Health costs are also incurred when people are injured from motor vehicle accidents. Severely injured people need emergency care services in the high dependence units or the intensive care units which tend to be very expensive due to their complexity. Indirect costs of drunk driving include the cost of maintaining law enforcement officials cracking down drunk drivers through the sobriety checkpoints. Imprisoning drivers found driving when drunk would have an economic effect on the society. (Cismaru et al,292). Drunk driving also has indirect economic costs on families when it leads to imprisonment. (Elbow 14). A clear illustration of this would be when a parent is imprisoned for drunk driving leaving the other parent to single handedly raise the family. The situation is worse when the person in question is the sole bread winner. Compensation paid after damages related to drunk driving occur also leaves a family suffering or rather straining economically. Injuries caused by drunk driving may have an in direct economic cost when they lead to unemployment. Other costs of drunk driving include premature death and reduced productivity attributed to the sustained injuries as well as on health and disability insurance. (Elbow 14). According to the Winscousin legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would require a tune of $8.3 million each year to punish offenders if drunk driving was deemed a misdemeanor. This cost would further increase to $100 million if the drunk drivers were imprisoned. Critics argue that softer measures ought to be embraced to deal with drunk driving as the cost was quite high. To respond to this, the Mother Against Drunk Driving noted that on using the National Safety Council data, Winscousin had actually spent $747 million on both the health care insurance as well as on damaged property. This was seven times more what the preventive approach of incarcerating drunk drivers would cost. MADD argued that the cost was actually higher than this given the fact that that lives which could not be attached an economic value had been lost. Although the cost of fighting drunk driving would be enormous it would definitely be a wise move especially in the long run when the programs supported were effective. To fund this cause beer companies who make millions in terms of profit while predisposing the lives of many to danger could be taxed more. (Elbow 14).
Drunk driving has heinous negative effects and ought to be prevented by imposing with hefty penalties. Leniency on the part of the authorities can be associated to increased cases of drunk driving which translates to high costs on the government. When over 50-75% offenders of drunk driving drive after their licenses have been suspended, it shows that they do not feel the pain of their acts and the chances of them repeating the same acts are high. (MADD). Criminalizing drunk driving can however be dismissed by some as an over reaction especially if they have ever drove under the influence of alcohol or people they know have been involved yet no fatality was registered. This argument is however shallow in the sense that just because one has not been involved in an accident after driving when drunk is not a guarantee that it cannot happen. Other concerns are raised about the 0.08 limit with some arguing that they are not drunk despite having higher alcohol content in their blood. Although this argument may be accurate given the fact that people are affected differently by alcohol consumption, there is need to resolve the drunk driving problem at a universal level since it is a societal problem. Application of rules and regulations to govern this cannot be applied on an individual basis.
The good thing about drunk driving is that despite the numerous dire consequences it can be prevented. One approach would be through the introduction of punitive measures such as the revocation of licenses, hefty fines, as well as incarceration in some cases. Increasing the taxes imposed on alcohol to make it expensive as well as increased public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. Increased advertisement encouraging people to use taxis rather than driving under alcohol intoxication can also play a critical role in reducing drunk driving and consequently its negative effects. (Cismaru et al, 292-311). CDC recommends legal action to fight drunk driving. It argues that continued aggressiveness in the enforcement of the 0.08% BAC laws, observation of the minimum legal drinking age as well as the zero tolerance laws for people below 21 years, would go along way towards the reduction of fatalities triggered by drunk driving. It would also be imperative to utilize the sobriety check points to prevent alcohol related fatalities. However collaborative efforts are needed to ensure that drunk driving is curbed. The relevant stakeholders such as the communities, the government at all levels and other institutions must introduce effective measures to fight this. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impaired Driving. Retrieved November 30, 2009 http://www.cdc.gov/MotorVehicleSafety/Impaired_Driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
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MADD. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from http://www.madd.org/About-us/About-us/Mission-Statement.aspx
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