A lot can happen in a half hour: lunch, an episode of your favorite sitcom, or your drive home from work (if you’re lucky). And perhaps that half hour will pass uneventfully. For too many people, however, it is interrupted by a tragic injury. Every 31 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash. Every 2 minutes, someone is non-fatally injured the same way. That’s right, by the time you’re done reading this blawg, another person has been hit by a drunk driver.
Given our substantial knowledge about the risks of driving under the influence, its prevalence is staggering. According to the Department of Justice, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2005 alone. The more surprising part: that’s less than 1% of the self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving. We hear about DUIs and DWIs every day; just imagine the real frequency of such instances being about 100 times what you thought. That’s pretty scary stuff.
Unfortunately, though, it is a mistake that millions of Americans continue to make. The solution: defensive driving. You can’t control who is on the road, but you can control where you drive, when you drive, and with whom you drive. Here are some tips for staying safe:
- Volunteer to be a designated driver.
- Always use a safety seat belt.
- Use four-lane highways whenever possible.
- Avoid rural roads.
Avoid travel after midnight (especially on Fridays and Saturdays).
- Choose vehicles with airbags.
- Refer to safety ratings before selecting your next vehicle. See “Buying a Safer Car” (nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/testing/NCAP). “Buying A Safer Car” includes safety ratings of cars, vans, and sport utility vehicles by year, make, and model.
- Never use illegal drugs. Illicit drugs are involved in a large proportion of traffic fatalities.
- Never drive when fatigued. The dangers posed when fatigued are similar to those when intoxicated. A drunk or fatigued driver has slowed reactions and impaired judgment. And a driver who nods off at the wheel has no reactions and no judgment! Drivers who drift off cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths each and every year.
- Don’t use a car phone, put on make-up, comb your hair, or eat while driving. Drivers using cellular phones are four times more likely to have an accident than other drivers.
- Steer clear of aggressive drivers. Aggressive drivers may be responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.
Keep in mind that drunk driving is an expensive mistake, both fiscally and humanely speaking. My guess is most individuals who make that mistake, and hurt others in the process, greatly underestimate the tab for drinks that night. We all know that you can’t be 100% safe 100% of the time, but you can better your odds. It’s simple math; when it comes to following safe driving tips, there’s no such thing as one too many.