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Anti-drunk driving campaigns are as common as cheap beer these days, but this one might be the most… interesting one yet.
You’d think that with all of the public service announcements, all of the shocking statistics and all of the cringe-worthy footage you can find on YouTube, drivers would think twice about getting behind the wheel drunk. Does it surprise you that almost 12,000 people are still killed annually from alcohol-related accidents? Just as surprising is a new study out by the Department of Transportation that shows that one in five drivers admit to driving within two hours of drinking.
The study comes up with some pretty revealing facts. This includes that the total number of drinking/driving trips in the past month is estimated to be at 85.5 million (this is up from 73.7 million in 2004) and it reverses a trend that has been on a decline since 1995. It also found that four out of five people see drunk driving as a major threat to the safety of themselves and their family.
Other stats pulled from the study were that eight percent of people accepted a ride with someone who they thought was too drunk to drive, and of those, 24 percent of males aged 21-24 were more at risk of riding with a drunk driver. Other facts to note were that drivers who drink were three times as likely as drivers who don’t to ride with someone they thought had consumed too much alcohol. For non-drivers who drink, they were eight times as likely to do so.
Sadly, this survey found that eight percent of all drivers (approximately 17 million people) have driven drunk at least once in the past year. For those caught driving under the influence in the past two years, about 1 percent of those were aged 16 or older, with five percent of men 21-24 years of age arrested. When questioned about curbing drinking and driving, 63 percent say that alcohol interlocks in vehicles would be very effective at helping to stop this behavior.
[Source: Consumer Reports]
We’re all a little sad to see the end of summer. We usually send it off with a long weekend, lots of backyard BBQs and a few pool parties. Since most of these types of shindigs involve alcohol, there’s always an increased risk of intoxicated drivers on the road. That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started their drunk driving campaign called “Over the limit. Under arrest.”
On now until September 6th, you’ll see an increase presence of police enforcement officers and checkpoints on the road, as well as TV and radio campaigns to warn drivers of the risks.
This annual NHTSA operation began in 2003 and has helped reduce drunk-driving accidents and fatalities. Although the numbers have dropped since 1994, alcohol-related crashes continue to be responsible for about a third of all vehicle deaths. The numbers are startling – in 2008, about 12,000 people (32 percent) of all fatal crashes were caused by drivers of vehicles or motorcycles who had a blood-alcohol-content of at or above the legal limit of .08 percent. The highest percentage of deaths from drunk driving is those 21 to 24 years old.
The campaign to bring awareness to the seriousness of drunk driving has stepped up their efforts this year. Last month, New York State instituted a law that requires all drunk driving offenders to use interlock devices before they can start their car. And, the ROAD SAFE Act (Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere) was introduced by members of Congress, which will fund the development of new in-vehicle technologies to prevent under-the-influence drivers from operating a vehicle.
[Source: Consumer Reports]
Seriously, how can we live in a country where this can happen? Last Saturday, Jonathan Schoenakase of Quincy, Illinois was arrested for operating the pictured vehicle, a courtesy shuttle home from local bars to keep drunk drivers off the road. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, local taxi companies lobbied to make it illegal.
Jonathan’s friend was killed by a drunk driver in 2009, and as a way to keep drunks off the road, he started offering rides home. The rides were free, although he would accept tips. The business soon grew, adding a second car, and then the bus. Taxi companies, thinking Jonathan was taking their money, lobbied that he was operating a Taxi service without a license, and won. The Quincy Government removed the words “for hire” from its definitions of the words “Taxi Service,” thus eliminating the loophole under which Schoenakase was operating.
Schoenakase has applied for a license, but the local cops say he needs to clear up some “legal issues” before he is approved. He has continued to offer the service during this time, and has been arrested a total of three times for his efforts.
We understand the law is the law, but how can one guy, with one bus, driving drunks home as a tribute to his friend and saving countless lives in the process, get arrested repeatedly? How can a politician, or series of politicians, be corrupted so badly by local businesses that charity becomes illegal?
The worst part? A taxi license in Quincy, Illinois costs $10. No, really.
The government is cracking down on people who drink and drive with an auto industry program that is in process of developing an in-car device that detects drunken drivers. This tool will be installed in all new vehicles, and is set to receive a six-fold increase in the annual funding.
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program’s budget receives $2 million per year, but is set to increase to $12 million for the next five years. This in-car device will automatically sniff the driver’s breath or use a light beam to test the alcohol content of tissue, in effect preventing a drunk driver from starting the vehicle.
The installation of such a device could potentially save thousands. Based on 2008 stats, almost 12,000 people died in alcohol-impaired car crashes. This tool wouldn’t be mandatory, but the safety advantages would be a definite asset to the list of new car perks. Thirteen automakers are already onboard with the project, who are sure that drivers will want to voluntarily add the mechanism to their vehicles as an added safety measure. Having one of these devices installed would hopefully mean that drivers would pay lower insurance rates.
Susan Ferguson, program director for Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, is optimistic about the new device and suggests that it could save 8,000 to 9,000 lives per year. “I think it is equivalent to the next seat belt,” she said. “It could make a huge difference in highway safety.”
Would you ever consider adding this alcohol-detecting device in your new car? Leave your comments below.