You Drink & Drive, You Lose
Driving Home the Facts about Impaired Driving
Impaired driving is an issue at the forefront of Americas public safety agenda, but has faded in visibility over the past few years. Public apathy and confusion over what constitutes impaired driving have contributed to the existing gap between the public perception that impaired driving is no longer a problem. The tragic reality is that nearly 16,000 lives were lost as a result of impaired driving in 1998, the last year of compiled national statistics.
Impaired driving costs Americans millions of dollars each year in lost time, lost property and lost lives.
In 1998, 15,935 fatalities and 305,000 injuries were related to impaired driving, accounting for one fatality nearly every 33 minutes and one injury every two minutes. Additionally, traffic-related crashes annually result in more than $45 billion in economic costs.
Alcohol remains a significant contributing factor in fatal crashes.
The severity of a motor vehicle crash increases when the driver is impaired. Individuals who drive while impaired are more likely to drive recklessly and become involved in fatal crashes. Plus, impaired drivers are less likely to use seatbelts, thereby increasing their own risk for serious injury in a crash.
The majority of those who drive impaired are likely to repeat the behavior.
In 1997, there were nearly 1.5 million arrests for driving while intoxicated. In states with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of at least 0.10, fatally injured drivers were more likely to have prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol. Hard core drunk drivers account for only one percent of all drivers on the road at night and on weekends, while representing nearly half of all fatal crashes at that time.
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in an individuals body, measured by the weight of the alcohol in a volume of blood. The BAC limit determines the maximum amount of alcohol that can be consumed before it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on a public road.
BAC can be measured in a variety of ways.
There are a number of ways to test an individuals BAC. The most common method used by law enforcement officers is the breath testing device, which measures the alcohol level in the breath from the lungs. BAC can also be determined by drawing blood and measuring the amount of alcohol in the blood itself.
Impairment can result from any BAC above .00 and increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
Blood alcohol concentration is directly correlated with the degree of impairment an individual displays when driving after drinking. Although an individual may not exhibit gross signs of inebriation, he/she is nevertheless impaired, even at a BAC level lower than that allowed by most state laws.
Only 17 states and the District of Columbia have set the legal BAC limit at .08. However, studies show that the relative risk of being killed in a single vehicle crash for drivers with a BAC level between .05 and .09 is 11 times that of drivers with .00 BAC level. At the .08 level, all drivers, even experienced ones, show impairment in driving ability. As BAC increases, the degree of impairment also rises dramatically.
There is no formula to determine BAC solely from the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed. BAC levels vary from person to person, and can vary within an individual on a case-by-case basis.
An individuals BAC depends upon that persons gender, weight, metabolism, time period over which the alcohol was consumed and the amount of food in the stomach prior to drinking. Although a persons BAC can be estimated, the level cannot be determined solely by the number of drinks consumed, and cannot be precisely calculated by a persons height and weight.