Alcohol and Highway Safety Vehicle Crashes Have Research Paper

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Alcohol and Highway Safety

Vehicle crashes have been accounted as the leading cause of death in the 15-20-age group of drivers and most of these crashes are alcohol-related. About 1/5 of all U.S. drivers admit to driving while or after drinking and 4 out of 5 of them are legally impaired. There have been prevention laws and further recommendations to prevent drunk driving but violations and fatalities persist. Suggested legislations to reduce overall drunken driving have also been listed. Super Drunk laws have been enforced in Michigan. But whether these will solve the problem remains to be seen.

Drunk driving is illegal because it increases the risk of accident (Daniels 2012). Drunk driving is known as driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI, and driving while impaired, or DWI. At this time, normal brain function is affected and slows down as an effect of alcohol. States have their specific laws although most are accepted nationwide (Daniels).

Drunk driving is determined when a police officer administers a blood alcohol concentration test on the driver (Daniels 2012). In all States, except South Carolina and Massachusetts, the allowed alcohol level is 10%. If the content is more, the driver is adjudged to have consumed too much to drive safely. Some States penalize drivers with lower concentrations of .08%. But conducting a test must be justified by a probable cause. And probable cause requires a number of things. The driver must have traveled though a traffic stop, avoided the stop, sped, drove recklessly, must have broken lights on his or her vehicle or an expired plate, or failed to obey traffic stop and speed signs. When intercepted, his eyes, behavior and smell must indicate that he must be tested for alcohol content concentration (Daniels).

If he fails the test or refuses to take it, his license can be revoked or suspended

(Daniels 2012). He may then be made to attend a court hearing for drunken driving. Some States require the hearing before the suspension or revocation of the license. Blood alcohol concentration levels above the minimum are penalized by revocation or suspension. The length is suspension is determined by the State and the court. In case of multiple offenses, the vehicle is lawfully forfeited in 22 States. It is withheld until the driver is acquitted. In 43 States, another law prohibits both the driver and passengers to possess an open container in which the alcohol drink is purchased or placed. An example of an open container is a previously opened whiskey bottle at the trunk until this is disproved in a court of law. The law was intended to reduce the chances of the driver or a passenger drinking it during transport on account of its presence in the vehicle (Daniels).


Drunk driving is a major police concern because alcohol increases the risk of traffic crashes, injuries and deaths (Scott et al. 2012). Alcohol impairment is the primary factor in these events. Drunk driving is among the most common types of police arrests. It is so frequent that alcohol-related crash deaths are about the same volume as homicides. Of particular concern is that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the 15-20 age group, many of which are alcohol-related. Drunk driving relates to impaired and dangerous driving. About 1/5 to 1/4 of U.S. drivers admit having driven after drinking at least once within the previous year and 4 out of 5 of them said they were legally impaired. Drunk drivers are likely to be male, white or Hispanic, aged 25-44, unemployed or from the working class, and unmarried. They are more likely to drink heavily or have drinking problems. Those under 21 years old are twice more likely to get involved in fatal vehicle crashes than older drivers. Surveys said that about 3% of them at any time are legally impaired. Their number rises significantly in the evenings of the weekend / About 8% of them have blood alcohol concentrations of ore than .05. Another 9% of all drivers had at least one drink. This equates to 17% of all of them running their vehicles while under the influence of some alcoholic drink (Scott et al.).

Prevention Laws

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC 2012) enforces very distinct laws against driving while intoxicated or DWI, driving under the influence or DUI and under-age drinking. A DWI suspect can be convicted even solely on the basis of breath, blood or urine results and without the need for field sobriety tests. A DUI is committed with a blood alcohol concentration of .07% or lower. In the District of Columbia, a DUI offense can be made in addition to a BAC reading if the officer finds other signs of impairment from the driver's behavior. And a driver younger than 21 cannot buy, consume or own alcoholic beverages of any kind. If he or she violates this law, he or she will be arrested and charged with DWI (MPDC).

Those convicted have been found to pose a substantial risk of repeating their offense (CDCP 2011). Records show that legally impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes were 8 times more prone to have DWI convictions than those without. While millions of adults actually drive impaired, only a fraction of them get arrested. An estimated 1.4 million were arrested while driving under the influence of alcohol. This equates to less than 1% of the 147 self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes among U.S. adults every year. It should be noted that under-age drinkers are at the greatest risk of dying an alcohol-impaired crash as compared with older drivers (CDC).

Further Recommendations

These disturbing facts give direction to further measures and policies (CDCP 2011). These policies should prevent DWI offenders from repeating their offense, elicit high visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws, and protect under-age drivers better. These recommendations can prevent almost 11,000 deaths from alcohol-impaired driving crashes every year:

Ignition Interlocks for Convicted DWI Offenders -- Devices like these or in-car breath analyzers, can be installed in their vehicles to prevent them from driving. Studies say that these devices are capable of reducing the rate of re-arrest by 67% and are therefore more effective than other methods. Those with interlocks had fewer crashes than offenders with only suspended licenses for DWI convictions;

Expanded Use of Sobriety Checkpoints -- at these checkpoints, officers assess drivers' level of alcohol impairment. These checkpoints not only increase the number of arrests but also discourage impaired driving by increasing drivers' apprehension of getting arrested after drinking. A review of more than 20 studies revealed that checkpoints decreased impaired driving crashes and deaths by 20%;

Maintain and strictly enforce MLDA and Zero Tolerance Laws -- In all 50 States, the minimum legal drinking age or MLDA is 21. Keeping this law will confine impaired driving at least among experienced drivers. Studies also show that lowering the age can further increase crashes involving young drivers by 10%. Zero tolerance laws prohibit those under 21 from driving. These are applicable to all States. They can lower the fatal crash rate to 9% up to 24%.

As of February 2011, more than half of all States already require the installation of ignition interlocks by DWI offenders (CDC 2011). However, only 13 States require them for all convicted offenders (CDC).

Suggested Legislations to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving

1. reduce the legal limit of intoxication for adult drivers at .08; for repeat offenders; and for underage drivers;

2. require drivers to submit to blood alcohol testing if arrested.

3. raise the minimum legal drinking age;

4. prohibit the possession of open alcohol containers in moving vehicles;.

5. require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts to reduce the severity of injuries for eventual vehicle crashes. Drunk drivers and passengers are likely not to wear seat belts and are, therefore, more prone to injury than those who wear them;

6. increase the number of police stops during high-risk periods to discourage drunk driving. Patrol time may be increased. The arrest process may be streamlined. Citizens may also be encouraged to report drunk drivers and the overall emphasis on the importance of drunk driving enforcement made;

7. conduct sobriety checkpoints;

8. train police officers to detect impaired drivers, especially by passing the Standardized Field Sobriety Test;

9. use preliminary breath testing devices;

10. suspend or revoke drivers' licenses administratively;

11. impose graduated licensing systems for under-aged drivers;

12. impound, immobilize or confiscate vehicles of drunk drivers;

13. confiscate license plates from convicted drunk drivers;

14. require convicted drunk drivers to install electronic ignition locks on their vehicles;

15. require them to complete alcohol assessment, counseling or treatment programs;

16. confine them to their homes;

17. closely monitor high-risk drunk drivers;

18. reduce alcohol consumption;

19. discourage drinking and driving through public education and awareness campaigns; and

20. provide alternative transportation to drinking drivers.

Influence of Alcohol-Control Policies

A 2003 survey conducted on the response of college students on policies covering alcohol-involved driving revealed that these policies could reduce drinking while driving if the…

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