Drunk driving car accidents claim the lives of more than 15,000 people in the U.S. every year. Drunk driving accidents injure many more. As you can see, drunk driving car accidents are a very serious, and very prevalent, problem.
Obviously, these accidents occur when a person has had too much to drink. In the U.S., the legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent. That means it is illegal for drivers to operate a motor vehicle if their blood alcohol concentration is higher than that. That’s because drivers who have had more to drink have impaired coordination, slowed reaction time, and impaired judgment.
Drunk driving accidents may occur in a number of ways. Some intoxicated drivers drive too quickly, but many drive below the speed limit, trying to be extra careful. However, they often weave across the center line. They may run red lights or stop signs. They may fail to yield for other cars or pedestrians.
Teens are at particular risk for drunk driving accidents. Experts report that teens are less likely to drive while drunk than adults are, but they are more likely to be in accidents when they do drive. There are several reasons for this.
Teens are affected by alcohol differently than adults. While adults are not considered intoxicated until their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or above, teens become drunk with a much lower BAC. For instance, a teenage boy with a blood alcohol concentration of just 0.05 is 18 times more likely to suffer a single vehicle crash than his non-drinking counterparts. And a teenage girl is 54 times more likely to crash!
Experts also suggest that teens are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors like speeding when driving while intoxicated. In addition, teens have less driving experience than adults, but may overestimate their driving abilities.
It should be noted that while teens are less likely than adults to drive while under the influence, drunk driving is a serious problem among adolescents - an average of eight teens die every day in alcohol-related car crashes.
There are a number of laws aimed at preventing drunk driving. They are supposed to serve as deterrents, as of course they can only be enforced after a drunk driving episode has occurred.
Law enforcement officers are trained to spot drunk drivers and courts are strict in dealing with them. Most states have mandatory jail sentences for first time offenders. There are also large fines for drunk driving. Drunk drivers are often required to attend alcohol awareness classes and/or treatment programs such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). In addition, interlock devices may be installed on their cars (these are devices that prevent intoxicated people from starting a car).
You can help, too. If you see what appears to be a drunk driver (remember the signs discussed above?), contact the police with a description and location of the car.