Impaired driving is a serious problem, and drinking is the top culprit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that in a day, about 28 people in America die from drunk-driving crashes. In 2016, the figures amounted to one death every 50 minutes.
Drunk driving wrecks more lives beyond the involved parties. It can affect both families of the victim and the negligent party. In fatal collisions, the victim’s families are left with hopelessness, sadness, and anger against the other party. Guilt and frustration can overwhelm the imprudent driver, an agony he’ll carry for the rest of his life.
A serious social issue, drunk driving warrants full support and prevention by the government and the community. How have we managed it so far? Here’s a look at some preventive measures across American states.
Fatal collisions due to alcohol impairment are different from other accidents. It can be completely avoided. Thus, prevention is the best way to stop drunk-driving rates from getting any higher.
This can be achieved by lessons and discussions as early as the permit acquisition process. Aside from traffic basics, driving courses should cover impaired driving as well.
In Florida, this measure has started. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles mandated a four-hour program called the Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education (TLSAE) to instill among new drivers a value for responsible driving. It is less commonly known as Drug Alcohol Traffic Education (DATE) or Drug Alcohol Traffic Awareness (DATA).
The TLSAE is a prerequisite for a driver’s permit in the said state. The course is offered in most DMV-approved educational establishments, which are upgrading their services today. Florida residents can now enroll in online TLSAE courses and study from the comfort of their homes.
Aside from being a prerequisite for a learner’s permit, Florida also makes TLSAE a necessary course for certain circumstances, such as resolving a traffic ticket or applying for an insurance discount. Thus, the course can reach a wider audience.
Drunk driving programs emerged in the 80s when the Ad Council started working with ad agencies to promote awareness.
One of the earliest ones, titled “Drinking and Driving Can Kill a Friendship,” had a signature billboard ad showing a handshake with a skeleton hand. The campaign also had a PSA video featuring the upbeat track of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” to get the attention of its target audience: young drivers from 16 to 24 years old, who, at the time, accounted for more than 40% of fatal alcohol-related collisions.
Shortly after its PSA videos aired, a 1986 poll indicated that 62% of young American drivers showed awareness and consciousness about the issue. 34% of the PSA’s target market said they did not drink at all when they needed to drive.
Criminal Consequences and Civil Liabilities
Road and safety laws have been the major cause of lower drunk-driving deaths since the 80s. All 50 states have set the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold at .08 grams per deciliter. For drivers below 21 years, the limit is set much lower, from 0 to 0.02, depending on the state law.
Driving beyond the legal limit constitutes an offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), sometimes referred to as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Since states have their own laws on DUI, state courts, in general, have jurisdiction over DUI violations. State courts prosecute the majority of DUI cases.
Special DUI courts were formalized due to a rise in offenders. These courts focus on serious cases and repeat offenders and thus impose stricter standards.
Arizona is known for being the toughest state on DUI offenders. It was the first state to require an ignition interlock device installation. This device is a breathalyzer connected to the vehicle, which the offender must blow into before driving. It could detect whether a driver is impaired over the limit and if so, it prevents the engine from starting.
A Senate Bill Mandating Alcohol Detection in Cars by 2024
With an apt acronym, the “Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act of 2019” is intended to promote the research and development of advanced alcohol detection software in new motor vehicles. It was proposed by bipartisan senators Tom Udall (D–New Mexico) and Rick Scott (R–Florida). In a Facebook Live in October 2019, Senator Udall introduced their new legislation with Senator Scott and Representative Debbie Dingell, who had similar drunk-driving legislation of her own.
Through federally funded research and development, the legislators envision a more advanced version of the interlock device prescribed for DUI offenders. And instead of being available to DUI offenders only, they aim to make alcohol detection software a compulsory part for all vehicles.
Do Your Part
While federal statutes, state laws, and awareness campaigns have been effective, they still need the cooperation of all citizens. Be a responsible driver. Be a reliable friend and stop your peers from attempting to drive after a night out. When we each do our part, drunk driving will no longer be a problem.