Sobering statistics: Seminar to highlight drunk, drugged driving dangers

Spc. Dareeontay King of the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade takes a ride wearing “drunk goggles” to experience driving under the influence at last year’s Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month event. This year’s 3D seminar is Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the McGill Training Center ballroom. (File photo)

By Samson Robinson, Prevention Coordinator, Army Substance Abuse Program

December is designated as National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

In recognition of this campaign, the Fort Meade Army Substance Abuse Program will sponsor a Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month kickoff seminar on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the McGill Training Center ballroom.

Participants include representatives from Sexual Harassment/Assault Response, the Family Advocacy Program, the Directorate of Emergency Services and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

Speakers from the Motor Vehicle Administration, DES, State’s Attorney’s Office, Installation Safety Office, Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care and many other agencies will partner with the Army Substance Abuse Program.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 29 people die every day in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes in the United States. That’s one person every 50 minutes in 2016.

Drunk driving fatalities have fallen by one-third in the last three decades. However, drunk driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year.

In 2010, the most recent year for which cost data is available, these deaths and damages contributed to a cost of $44 billion per year.

The government reports that alcohol is responsible for one in every 10 deaths of Americans ages 20 to 64. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that excessive drinking not only leads to fatal car crashes and violence but also deadly cases of breast cancer, and liver and heart disease.

About 70 percent of drinking deaths involved men.

New Mexico had the highest rate of death from drinking. New Jersey had the lowest.

Alcohol and other drugs hinder driving skills such as judgment, reaction time and general awareness.

What most people don’t realize is that it is extremely dangerous to operate a motorcycle while impaired — even after one drink or while intoxicated.

Physically, motorcyclists are affected by alcohol in the same way as vehicle drivers. However, motorcyclists may overlook that it takes much more coordination and alertness to operate a motorcycle than it does to drive a car.

In previous years, motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had higher intoxication rates than any other type of operator.

ASAP works with dedicated volunteers who continue to get out the word.

The term accident implies unpredictable and unavoidable acts. But motor vehicle crashes are predictable and avoidable, thus making them preventable.

With the holidays approaching, there will be an increase in social events involving alcohol. Data from the NHTSA shows that this results in an increase in DUIs and fatal drunk-driving crashes around the Christmas holidays.

According to the NHTSA, 1,180 people were killed in crashes on the nation’s roads, and almost one-third of those fatalities were in drunk-driving crashes during the holiday period, Dec. 18-31.

Over the entire month of December 2013, a staggering number of people — 733 — lost their lives in crashes.

While the dangers relating to drinking and driving are well documented, there is another deadly alcohol-related problem that receives far less attention — impaired pedestrians.

In the past, ASAP has encouraged individuals not to drive after drinking, but have failed to send the message that impaired walking is also dangerous and can result in injury or death.

Research has shown that pedestrian crash victims often have a very high blood alcohol concentrations, or BAC. About 25 percent of fatally injured pedestrians had a BAC greater than .20.

In 2017, traffic fatalities were 1 percent lower in the first six months, compared with the same period in 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council. The organization reports that the decline comes after the steepest estimated two-year increase in traffic deaths since 1964.

In addition, the first six months’ tally for 2017 is 8 percent higher than the same period in 2015.

If you plan on celebrating with alcohol this holiday season, plan on a sober driver. Even if you’ve had a little bit to drink, you can still get a DUI and be involved in a crash.

Only drive when you are sober. Too many people wait until they’re been drinking to figure out their ride home. By then, it’s too late to make a clear-minded decision.

You might think you’re just buzzed and that you’re OK to drive, but remember this: Buzzed driving is drunk driving.

Editor’s note: For more information, call Samson Robinson at 301-677-7983.

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