The facts are
already in. They’ve been in so long, in fact, that a lot of us
don’t pay much attention to them any more.
still real and they still have massive impact when you consider
that they affect the lives of real people:
Fact: Alcohol figures into 37 percent of all traffic
fatalities. In 2009, 10,839 Americans were killed in drinking-related
Fact: Nobody knows how many deaths that drug abuse adds
to the total, only that it does. In a study at the University
of Maryland, a third of accident victims had smoked pot prior
to a crash.
Fact: Three of every five of us will be involved in
an alcohol-related accident in our lifetimes.
the facts — or the odds?
means changing more than our attitudes about driving under the
influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). It means changing our actions,
and helping to change the actions of others.
federal law required all states to adopt, by 2004, a uniform
standard setting legal impairment at blood-alcohol content (BAC)
levels of 0.08 percent, from the previous standard of 0.1 percent.
And that’s also why we put together this pamphlet: to put things
on a more personal level-like, say, your person and your level.
one more fact that many of us forget about drinking, drugs, and
driving that we need to face: The next life that gets mangled
by a driver who’s smashed could be ours — or someone we care
Jeff is a social
drinker. He likes beer better than the hard stuff, doesn’t drink
every day, doesn’t “crave” alcohol, and never gets
likes going out for drinks and a few games of pool on Saturday
night. He’s driven home from the bar a thousand times without
any trouble. Until tonight.
- Fact: A 12-ounce beer, a glass of wine, and a shot of
liquor all contain about the same amount of alcohol. Half of
all DUI arrests involve beer alone.
drinking and shooting pool around 8 p.m., and closed out the
bar at 1:00 a.m. About half a mile from his house, he was pulled
over by an officer who noticed his car weaving. Jeff thought
his driving was perfectly fine.
- Fact: Alcohol affects higher-order brain skills (and
turns a set of car keys into a potential weapon) long before
a drinker “feels” drunk-or dangerous. As little as
two drinks per hour can reduce alertness and slow decision-making
When the officer
asked Jeff if he’d been drinking, Jeff admitted that he’d had
“a few,” even though he’d been in the bar for five
hours and had dropped more than $40.
- Fact: Drinkers consistently underestimate how much they’ve
had to drink and how intoxicated-and impaired-they actually are.
ordered Jeff out of his car for a field sobriety test.
a light in Jeff’s eyes, checked the color of his skin, and asked
him to perform a few simple tasks, such as touching his nose
with his eyes closed, standing on one foot, walking heel to toe,
and reciting the alphabet. When Jeff failed the test, he protested,
“I couldn’t do that stuff even if I wasn’t drinking.”
- Fact: Almost all healthy, sober adults are able to complete
these tasks without difficulty. Inability to pass these tests
is a reliable indicator of driving impairment.
told Jeff he was under arrest for driving under the influence
of intoxicants. He was frisked, handcuffed, and taken to the
police station. His car was impounded.
At the station,
Jeff was asked to take a breathalyzer test to determine if he
was over the legal DUI limit (.10 percent blood alcohol in most
states; .08 percent in other states and Canada).
- Fact: The amount of alcohol in a drinker’s body can be
accurately measured with a breath test. Breath tests do work.
Jeff was told
that he had the right to refuse the breath test, but if he did,
his driver’s license would be automatically suspended for three
months. Jeff was willing to take the test because he thought
it would prove that he wasn’t drunk.
- Fact: Most drivers don’t think they’re drunk until they’re
beyond legal levels of intoxication, levels that seriously impair
driving ability. Jeff’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was
.15 percent-almost double the legal limit in his state. But he
still didn’t consider himself too drunk to drive.
- Fact: Driving skills begin to suffer at BAC levels below
.10 percent. In the year 2000, 3,523 people died in accidents
involving drivers with BAC levels lower than .10 percent.
Jeff was booked,
fingerprinted, photographed, and strip-searched. Then he was
allowed a phone call, and was locked up.
later, he was released when his wife paid the $500 bail.
It cost another
$125 to get his car back from the impound lot.
He had to take
a day off work to meet with his lawyer. He’d planned on pleading
not guilty. The lawyer told Jeff that they didn’t have much chance
of winning, but that he’d take the case to trial if Jeff would
pay his $1500 retainer-in advance. Jeff decided to plead guilty.
He had to take
another day off work to go to court.
judge fined him $500, ordered Jeff to attend a special DUI traffic
school, and sentenced him to 24 hours in jail (suspended, if
Jeff performed 20 hours of community service work).
license was revoked for six months.
- Fact: In recent years, every state has toughened its
penalties for DUI offenses. Most automatically suspend the license
of first-time offenders, and many impose fines and jail sentences.
offenders can lose their license for up to a year and spend 10
or more days in jail.
arrest, Jeff never thought of himself as anything but a social
drinker. And he never considered himself a danger on the road.
made him mad. His trial was expensive and humiliating.
And he still
wasn’t convinced he’d been too drunk to drive.
He cooled his
heels at home for a few weeks, but within a month he was back
to his old tricks, drinking and dancing and shooting pool on
weekend nights-and driving home.
- Fact: Continuing to drink and drive after a DUI arrest
is a sign of a potentially serious drinking problem.
that three-fourths of people arrested two or more times for DUI
A year later,
Jeff was arrested again. This time he lost his license for a
year, was placed on probation, and fined $1,000. He was lucky.
He hadn’t had
an accident and he hadn’t created major problems for anyone but
himself and his family.
this time Jeff will learn that driving when he’s loaded is like
firing a loaded gun in the middle of a busy street.
You don’t have
to hit someone to be a hazard to everybody.
In spite of
the best efforts of a lot of people, impaired drivers like Jeff
continue driving up the body count on our streets and highways.
It’s more than
disturbing — it’s a disaster, aimed at each of us, just waiting
final, frustrating fact about drinking, drugs, and driving is
this: It’s one problem that is totally preventable.
the potential disasters that every impaired driver represents
is going to require a lot more than sobriety checkpoints
and public service ads.
real solution starts in the spot where each of us is standing
(or sitting) right now — with a commitment not to drive if we’re
impaired — and not to let our friends or family members drive
when they’re impaired, either.
though the decision to modify, mangle, or medicate your moods
with booze or other chemicals may be your business, taking it
to the streets is everybody’s business.
Keep it your business.