Drunk driving is the effect of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths across the world. In the United States, Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of deaths among young people below the age of 24 years. Data from the US Department’s National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (2011) show that more than forty percent of the deaths are as a result of alcohol related accidents. Accidents occurring as a result of consumption of alcohol are so prevalent in the US that at some point in life, an estimated 40% of all people in the US will be involved in some sort of traffic mishap blamed on alcohol. The flipside of these statistics is that most of the accidents occurring as a result of drunk driving can be avoided. Even though there has been a witnessed drop in alcohol related accidents for the last few years, there are still many accidents that occur and can be easily prevented. As much progress is being made to try and reduce these accidents even further, drunk driving continues to be a tragic problem affecting the nation. Drunk driving not only affects those who are under the influence, but also other innocent users of roads who may end up being hurt or killed.
Consumption of alcohol affects a person’s sense of judgment and motor skills
More statistics from NHTSA paints a grim picture on the consequences of drunk driving. Data from the department shows that in 2008 alone, almost 13,000 people lost their lives as a result of drunk driving. It is even disturbing to note that around 1300 of the death were as a result of teenage drunk driving (p. 2). These accidents not only result in deaths, but also lead to immense financial loss running into billions of dollars on the part of the government. These disturbing statistics on drunk driving have necessitated the need for penalties and safety measures to deal with the problem. There are various laws in the United States have been put in place to prevent these accidents. One law has been the increase in the legal age of drinking to twenty one. Also, some States have given full authority to arresting officers to seize licenses of drivers who refuse to co-operate with them or refuse to take the breath analyzer test. Other measures that have been done include holding seminars, especially in schools and colleges to disseminate the negative consequences of drunk driving.
Penalties for drunk driving have been increased, even for the first offenders. Additionally, through the lobbying of some organizations like the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) numerous laws have been put in place with the aim of combating drunk driving. Majority of the States in the US have also passed Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws that gives arresting officers powers to take licenses of drivers who fail or refuse to take breath tests (Buddy, n.p). Moreover, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit has been lowered by all States from .10 to 0.08 for adults and has also passed Zero Tolerance laws that prohibit drivers below the age of 21 from having any amount of alcohol in their bodies that can be measured.
When it comes to drunk driving, the drunk drivers cannot escape responsibility. They are held accountable to some extent for the accidents they cause. They are held accountable by the justice system for the people they injure or kill. They have to cushion the monetary liabilities for causing such accidents and these might run into millions of shillings. Drunk drivers are liable to pay punitive damages as awarded by the court. In some areas, drivers are obliged to face the victims as part of the Driving under Influence (DUI) school curriculum (NHTSA, 3). The idea of doing this is for the drunk drivers to get an opportunity to listen to the painful stories of the victims and feel their pain. The idea is for the drivers to feel the pain of the victims and make them think twice before repeating the offense again. Therefore, once a person is found liable for causing injury or death as a result of drunk driving, then they will have to pay fines, costs of lawsuits and have their licenses revoked for a period of time. Other State will require that one be place under probation at their cost and ordered to perform some form of community work.
Michigan, just like the other States in the country has put in place laws to curb drunk driving. The State has very strict laws when it comes to driving under influence. Generally, the legal limit for blood alcohol in the State is 0.80 and this is only applicable to people who are above 21 years. The State is also an “Implied Consent” state; meaning that the mere act of operating a vehicle means that you have consented to be administered a breathalyzer test. Refusing to take the test lose their license for one year and a second refusals are not legible to apply for hardship licenses. When it comes to convictions, a first conviction may result to a prison term of up to three months and have the licenses suspended for 6 months with fines ranging from $100 to $500. Offenders are also subject to 360 hours of community work and have a breathalyzer device put on their vehicles. A second conviction results in a prison sentence ranging from 5 days to one year and fined between $200 and $1 000. The license is also suspended for at least a full year with six points being added to the license. Offenders may also be sentenced to community service ranging from 30 to 90 days. The third conviction is counted as a felony and a person can be jailed for not less than one year to 5 years. This will also lead to confiscation of the license and the vehicle immobilized for a 3 to 6 months. The fines range from $200 to $1000.Michigan has experienced a fairly steady decline in the number of accidents occurring as a result of drunk driving. The table below summarizes the number of alcohol related deaths from 2000 to 2008.
From the table it can be seen that the State had the highest number of alcohol related deaths (AlC-Rel) in 2000 at 528 and the lowest in 2008 at 331. The state witnessed a peak in alcohol related fatalities (Tot) in 2000 at 1382 and the lowest was witnessed in 2006.
Drunk driving continues to be an issue of concern in the country and is increasingly causing many deaths and injuries on the roads, many of which are unwarranted. The recent past has witnessed laws and programmes which are meant o curb this vice. Organizations and lobbies have not been left behind and all of these are fighting to make our roads safe for everyone. New and tough rules are being put in place to mitigate the grim trends. However, all said and done, rules alone will not reduce accidents, what is needed is change in people’s attitude through education and awareness creation so that citizens can be in the forefront of promoting highways that are free from alcohol.
Buddy, Tom. Penalties for Driving Drunk: Penalties For the Drunk Driver Are Get Stiffer. 10,
January, 2011. Web. 20 March 2011.
Gursten, steven. A safety app to reduce drunk driving and car crashes in Michigan?
September 7th, 2010
Michigan Drunk Driving Statistics. Web. 20 March 21, 2011
US Department’s National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), Alcohol IPT.
18 March 21, 2011. Web 20 March 21, 2011. <http://www.nhtsa.gov/