Drinking and Driving Still Most Prevalent Among Men
Statistics show that the nation is experiencing fewer (though still far too many) traffic deaths connected to drinking and driving. Most often, men are directly responsible for those alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
The Cost of Drunk Driving
National statistics help generate the big picture when it comes to the costliness of drinking and driving in America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that every half-hour a citizen loses their life in an alcohol-related traffic accident. In fact, 41 percent of all traffic deaths involve alcohol consumption.
When you look at statistics for non-lethal injuries from alcohol-related crashes, someone is affected every two minutes. Nearly 1.5 million American drivers face DUI arrest every year. Driving under the influence of alcohol will negatively impact one in every three people in this country at some point in their lives.
The U.S. suffered 25,000 deaths as a result of drinking and driving in 1980. That year, one bereft mother launched a campaign to change that number and the behavior behind it, and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was born. The group has been highly effective in encouraging many states to raise the legal drinking age.
As the legal drinking age went up, drinking and driving fatalities went down. Today 11,000 people die in alcohol-related car crashes. It is still a horrific number and represents one-third of all traffic deaths, but it is encouraging when viewed as part of a significant downward trend in the country.
Drunk Driving Common Among Men
Unfortunately, men are most often behind the wheel when such accidents occur. In 2010, men were responsible for a full 81 percent of drinking and driving incidents (according to their own report combined with police reports).
While men ages 21 to 34 make up only around 11 percent of the total U.S. population, they are responsible for 32 percent of all instances of drinking and driving. And, 85 percent of the time, when a young male is drinking and driving, it is not after just a single beer, but more likely after an episode of binge drinking. Men are involved in fatal car crashes more than twice as often as women.
Efforts to Reduce Drinking and Driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made some suggestions in an effort to reduce drinking and driving and its deadly results. When children have been involved in deadly crashes, fewer than 20 percent were wearing their seat belts. For this reason, the CDC suggests that laws pertaining to safety belt use be strengthened.
The CDC also points out that greater use of sobriety checkpoints could put a dent in DUI behavior. At present, most states do not take this preventive action and 12 states do not use sobriety checkpoints at all.
Lastly, making ignition locks a mandatory result of drunk driving convictions for even first-time offenders could have a positive impact. Today only 20 percent of those with DUI convictions are required to use the devices despite the fact that they reduce repeat offenses by as much as 66 percent.
The United States has seen laudable improvements in the traumatic statistics which surround drinking and driving. Efforts of advocacy groups such as MADD, along with stricter law enforcement, are likely most responsible for the downward slope in traffic deaths resulting from drunk driving.
Still, the challenge remains as to how to most effectively address those who are most likely to be involved in drunk driving traffic accidents – young men. Hopefully, there will one day be occasion to report that the male demographic is less culpable for such a reversible national tragedy.