Drunken drivers are a deadly menace to others on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 9,878 people died in accidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol in 2011 (the latest figures available). These drivers were found to have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08 percent, which is the legal threshold for drunken driving in Missouri.
Put another way, one death due to a drunken driver occurred on average every 53 minutes in 2011.
The NHTSA’s latest figures show that drivers 21 to 24 years old had the highest percentage of drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher (32 percent), followed by drivers 25 to 34 years old (30 percent) and 35 to 44 years old (24 percent).
Drugged driving is another serious epidemic in this country. A survey released in 2009 involved stopping thousands of drivers across the country at various times of day and collecting their oral fluid and blood samples. Of the nighttime drivers included in the effort, 11.3 percent tested positive for an illegal drug. Marijuana was found to be the most common illegal drug. More than a quarter of all drivers testing positive for an illegal drug also tested positive for alcohol.
But steps are being taken to stop drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Actions to Stopping Drunken and Drugged Drivers
In a 2013 publication from the NHTSA, titled “Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices,” the federal agency identifies several programs designed to halt impaired drivers and rates their efficiencies. The most effective measures include:
- Suspending or revoking the licenses of those found to be driving under the influence. As of July 2012, 41 states had such a system in place
- Use of publicized sobriety checkpoints. While effective – and used in 38 states – they are not used often due to a lack of funding and personnel.
- Alcohol treatment programs. All states have legal options for alcohol treatment. Some states mandate treatment for drunken drivers while other states leave it up to the courts.
The section addressing drunken and drugged drivers in NHTSA’s “Countermeasures that Work” publication is some 67 pages long, so obviously there are many possible answers to tackling this serious threat.
But despite all the solutions, we know that people will take illegal drugs or drink to excess and get behind the wheel of their car or truck. When they cause an accident, they should be held accountable for paying fair and just compensation to their victims.