The War On Drunk Driving: A Call To Action

The War On Drunk Driving: A Call To Action

The End of Tolerance and the Beginning of Accountability

By Donell Edwards | August 30, 2013

Sometimes there are issues in life that are so unnecessary and yet so damaging that they just infuriate us to the point we feel like a volcano about to erupt. We feel compelled to do something to help eliminate the problem. That is how I feel about drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs.

Like many Americans, I have experienced the effects of this horrible and needless problem more than once, which I will discuss at length in due time.

Although most states have laws with severe penalties for those convicted of drunk driving, the problem persists. There are organizations, which will be discussed in this series of articles, who do outstanding work in an effort to curb the incidence of drunk drivers, still, the problem continues. Even though this issue receives much media exposure, thousands of people continue to be killed or severely injured as a result of drunk driving every year. That is why I decided that I had to do something, to add my voice to those who have been on the forefront of the battlefield in the war against drunk driving for years, fighting to eradicate this problem from our society.

This is the first in a series of articles I am writing as publisher of The CWR on the subject of drunk driving. We ask that everyone who reads this article will share it with as many people as they can, since it is being released at a time of the year with the highest highway fatality rates, many of them alcohol related, during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

In future articles we will present comments from law enforcement officers, victims, medical professionals, the courts, government officials, and organizations who help people recover from alcohol and drug addiction. The purpose of these articles is to challenge everyone who reads them to become proactive in the fight against drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs. We will also provide you with information on what you can do as an individual to become more involved.

Is it really reasonable to believe that this problem can be totally eradicated? Maybe that is too ambitious of a goal, but if by working to eliminate drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs completely by heightening awareness, we significantly reduce the occurrences of drunk driving beyond the current limits, that would be a welcome measure of success.

Regarding the question, can drunk driving be eliminated, it is interesting to note the comments of a long-time police officer whom we interviewed for this article who has much experience dealing with drunk drivers, and he stated, “We live in a culture which condones and encourages alcohol consumption. Those who have injured or harmed others and/or lost their drivers license tend to marginalize the events. To them it’s no big deal or a one- time event. Many problem drinkers do not realize or cannot admit they have a problem.”

So, the crux of the matter is that modern society condones this behavior, and for many who have not been arrested yet, or who may not have been involved in an accident resulting in personal injury or even death, they can relate to the drunk driver, they may even see themselves as that person, and therefore condone and excuse driving while drunk, in effect excusing themselves. They may even rationalize that they are more careful because they know they may have had a little too much to drink. The officer’s comments previously mentioned, supported by statistical evidence, demonstrates that we live in an age of tolerance, and that is a major problem in regard to eliminating drunk driving in America.

Just how serious is this problem you might ask. If you are not already familiar with the magnitude of the problem of drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs, and the severe consequences that result, here are some sobering statistics for you. This information was taken from the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) website with citations from their sources:

  • About one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol are repeat offenders.  (Fell, Jim, “Repeat DWI Offenders in the United States.” Washington, DC: National Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Tech No. 85, February 1995.)
  • Over 1.41 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States: 2010”)
  • In 2010, 211 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. Out of those 211 deaths, 131 (62 percent) were riding with the drunk driver. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  “Traffic Safety Facts 2010:  Alcohol Impaired Driving” Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011.)
  • An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest. (Centers for Disease Control.  “Vital Signs:  Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults-United States, 2010.”  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  October 4, 2011.)
  • Adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010 – that is almost 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day.  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2011)
  • Almost half of all drivers who were killed in crashes and tested positive for drugs also had alcohol in their system.  (Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., Bachman, J.G., & Schulenberg, J.E. (2011).  Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2011.  Volume I:  Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 10-7584).  Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 734 pp.
  • Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2012.
  • 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. ((Peck, R.C., Wilson, R.J., and Sutton, L. 1995.  “Driver license strategies for controlling the persistent DUI offender, Strategies for Dealing with the intent Drinking Driver.”  Transportation Research Board, Transportation Research Circular No. 437.  Washington, D.C. National Research Council:  48-49 and Beck, KH, et al.  “Effects of Ignition Interlock License Restrictions on Drivers with Multiple Alcohol Offenses:  A Randomized Trial in Maryland.”  American Journal of Public Health, 89 vol. 11 (1999):  1696-1700.)
  • Drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion a year.  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2010
  • Drunk driving costs each adult in this country almost $500 per year.  (Taylor, Dexter; Miller, Ted; and Cox, Kenya.  “Impaired Driving in the United States Cost Fact Sheets.”  Washington, DC:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002.
  • In the United States, the number of drunk driving deaths has been cut in half since MADD was founded in 1980.  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2011.
  • Since 1980 MADD has saved 300,000 lives …and counting.  (Fell, J.C., 1995, “What’s New in Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety in the U.S.?”  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Proceedings of 13th Conference, International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, ICADTS, NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit, University of Adelaide, Australia, C.N. Kloeden and A.J. McLean (Editors), T95, pp 329-335.)
  • One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  “The Traffic Stop and You:  Improving Communications between Citizens and Law Enforcement.”  National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration, March 2001, DOT HS 809 212.)

No doubt many of you reading this article may have already been aware of some of these statistics, if you did not know the exact numbers you were probably aware of the problems. However, I doubt that most have a knowledge of the overall impact of this issue in regard to the frequency of the incidents, the annual costs and individual costs to each of us, how many times people engage in drunk driving before getting caught, and how often drunk drivers continue to drive and create havoc after losing their drivers license. We are all tolerating this behavior if we are not doing anything to help prevent it, and our toleration of drunk driving must end.

We can no longer as a society silently and passively tolerate the actions and conduct of drunk drivers. If you are reading this and thinking that it does not apply to you personally, or you feel there are existing laws that should suffice to control this problem, or you feel helpless and don’t know what you can do, ask yourself, what have you done? What have you done to keep drunk drivers off the road? We must make drunk drivers more uncomfortable about their conduct, and more accountable for their actions.

Sometimes it is as simple as making sure a friend or co-worker, or maybe a family member, does not drive after having too much to drink. Yes, this may mean stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and confronting the inebriated person and offering to give them a ride, or insisting that they give you their keys and let you drive them home, or suggesting that they take a cab. It means doing something, whatever you can, to keep a drunk driver off the road.

There is something else that you can do, and that is to educate yourself. Learn all you can about drunk driving and its effects. Learn about the laws and penalties for drunk driving in your state. Learn about organizations that are engaged in the war against drunk driving. And do whatever you can to help.

I strongly recommend that you visit the MADD website and consider becoming an active member of that organization. There are many organizations involved in this fight, but MADD has been the premier organization for years and continues to be the leader in the fight against drunk driving. Here is a link to the Madd Get Involved page:

Remember, statistics show that 1 in 3 people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. How long will it be before you or someone close to you is seriously injured or killed if we don’t at least bring this madness more under control?

I recently watched an old movie, The Network (, released in 1976. In one scene one of the main characters who was a national network television news anchor goes on a tirade on the air about world conditions. He urges viewers to open their windows and yell repeatedly, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

When I saw this particular scene in the movie it made me realize that is this kind of outrage that is needed in order to mobilize more people to become actively involved in the war against drunk driving. So I hope that everyone who reads these articles is so angry over every life that is lost, every person that is injured, every person that is disabled, every life that is changed as a result of a drunk driver, that they refuse to tolerate it anymore.

Remember, this is a huge holiday driving weekend and now is a great time to become proactive in the war against drunk driving. Make a vow right now to do your part to keep America’s highways and streets safe and to help STOP drunk driving.

Related information: Remembering the Kentucky Bus Crash