After years of costly public education campaigns, school drivers’ education scare-tactic videos, and reports of grisly deaths, you would think that drivers should have absorbed the message that driving while intoxicated is an unacceptable risk. You would be wrong. Our Chicago injury attorneys have seen far too many fatalities and catastrophic injuries from drunken driving to believe that this behavior is abating. Now, a new study confirms that Americans are still drinking and driving – and at an alarming rate.
A newly released government study found that one in twelve drivers admitted to having driven drunk in the previous year. The study was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the data was collected in 2008, the results were released last week.
Specifically, the study asked individuals whether they had driven when they believed that their blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit of .08%. This figure is particularly shocking when you consider the fact that it is likely that additional people engaged in this highly dangerous behavior but were too embarrassed to admit it.
In addition, a staggering one in five people admit to having driven within two hours of consuming alcohol. Although this does not necessarily mean that these individuals were intoxicated when they drove, it is still dangerous behavior. Of this group, the study also asked how many drinks they believed they could consume and still safely drive. Forty percent of these individuals indicated that they could safely drive after consuming three drinks. A terrifying eleven percent believed they could safely drive after consuming five drinks. This behavior explains why injury and wrongful death from drunk driving are still so common: apparently, at least twenty percent of American drivers simply do not understand the physiology of alcohol consumption, and are accordingly putting us all at risk.
Another facet of the study shows the profound disconnect between individuals’ logical evaluation of risk and the behavior they engage in themselves. Four out of five people in the study stated that they believe that drunk driving is a major threat to their safety. Indeed, this belief is well founded, as statistics compiled by the Federal Department of Transportation show that around a third of motor vehicle accidents resulting in fatalities stem from drunken driving. Yet these individuals are still engaging in the practice themselves. This goes far beyond negligence, to a willful disregard for the lives that will cross the paths of their paths.
Individuals seem willing to tolerate dangerous behavior in their friends, as well as themselves. Like those who admitted to driving drunk, one in twelve people admitted to having ridden in a car with a drunk driver within the past year. One group in particular was prone to this behavior: young men aged 21 to 24 years. Of this group, one in four admitted to riding with an impaired driver.
As NHTSA Administrator David Strickland eloquently stated, “We have to do more as a country to close the gap between believing that drunk driving is a threat and actively doing something about it.” The first step is to make drunk drivers pay for their actions, and the devastating consequences. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed by a drunk driver, it is crucial that you take action. If this behavior is ever going to change, we must send a strong message that our society simply will not tolerate this abuse. We urge you to speak with an experienced Chicago car accident attorney about your options. Your courage and resolve could save lives.
Drunk driving is a particular problem over summer holiday weekends. That’s why police nationwide will be putting on a two-week-long assault on drunk driving surrounding the upcoming labor day weekend. Patrols and checkpoints will be greatly increased for those two weeks, in the hope of catching offenders, preventing accidents, and dissuading offenders from future drunk driving.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.