Alcohol and drunk driving put lives at risk

By Jessica Rawlings, Program Evaluator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMarch 28, 2013

Drunk driving kills. On average, someone dies as a result of drunk driving every 53 minutes, and someone is injured as a result of drunk driving every 90 seconds.

According to the National Safety Council, at any given moment one in 50 drivers is not just impaired but legally intoxicated; this number jumps to one in 10 on the weekends. In 2012, there were nearly 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day. Drunk driving costs the U.S. an estimated $132 billion per year, and costs each adult in the U.S. almost $500 per year in increased taxes due to the higher demand for law enforcement.

In an effort to draw attention to this national tragedy, the National Safety Council has designated April as "Alcohol Awareness Prevention Month."

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the brain and body. The first abilities that are altered are judgment and coordination. An impaired driver cannot recognize a dangerous situation and react quickly enough to avoid an accident. Unfortunately, because judgment is impaired, impaired drivers do not often realize they have had too much.

Heavy alcohol consumption is a problem nationally and in the military. The Institute of Medicine recently reported the use of alcohol has spiked since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Nearly half of active-duty military personnel report being binge drinkers. Binge drinking is having five or more drinks on a single occasion at least once in the past 30 days; one drink is equal to 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits, or 12 ounces of regular beer. Unfortunately 20 percent of the population still admits to drinking and driving.

Drunk driving can be prevented in these ways: Appoint a designated driver who sticks to non-alcoholic beverages. If a designated driver slips or cannot be decided on, call a taxi (and keep a taxi company telephone number in your cell phone).

If you are throwing a party, offer non-alcoholic drinks, arrange for a cab for someone that has had too much to drink, and do not be afraid to take someone's car keys. You may save someone's life.

Even if you have not been drinking, there are ways to protect yourself on the road by knowing what to look for. According to law enforcement officials, there are several signs of drunk driving: wide turns, weaving, swerving, drifting, driving on the wrong side of the road, driving at a very slow rate, or stopping without reason are just a few. If you encounter someone on the road who you think is driving under the influence, keep a safe distance and call 9-1-1.

Related Links:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mothers Against Drunk Driving