It’s a warning
Published 7:43 pm Saturday, April 26, 2008
The bad news is that 15.1 percent of the nation’s drivers age 18 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
That’s disturbing enough, but the report shows that in some states nearly one in four drivers 18 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year.
Fortunately, North Carolina is not one of those states. According to the report, North Carolina is among the states with the lowest percentages of drivers 18 or older driving under the influence of alcohol during the past year. At 10.4 percent, North Carolina was bettered by West Virginia at 10.1 percent and Utah at 9.5 percent.
Wisconsin had the highest percentage at 24.9 percent.
The report, State Estimates of Adults Driving under the Influence of Alcohol and Illicit Drugs, is based on the combined data from the 2004 to 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health and provides state-level estimates for the pervasiveness of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of illicit drugs. These estimates are annual averages based on combined data collected from 127,283 current drivers surveyed in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the most recent data available.
Even if it has the third-lowest percentage of drivers 18 or older driving under the influence of alcohol, North Carolina must do more to prevent drivers from operating motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. The ultimate goal should be no drivers under the influence of alcohol, but that’s probably not a realistic expectation. Admirable, yes, realistic, no.
One driver under the influence is one too many. All it takes is one drunken driver to kill, maim or destroy property. Drunken drivers are a health risk, to themselves and others.
The report contains another disturbing piece of information. Across the nation, the report shows, 30.5 million people age 12 or older drove while under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. The fact that some 12-year-old children are under the influence of alcohol is disturbing enough, but the fact that they are driving while under the influence of alcohol is more disturbing.
It’s more than disturbing. It’s just plain wrong.
Laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs should be made stricter. Those laws should be enforced more. When someone is convicted of driving under the influence, punishment must be severe enough to deter that driver from ever driving while under the influence again.
There were nearly 16,700 deaths in 2004 caused by accidents related to driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many, if not all, of those deaths likely could have been prevented if people had not driven while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The report is more than just statistics, data and findings. It’s a warning. The nation, each state and every person must heed that warning. Lives are at stake.