From August 15, 2018, through Labor Day Weekend, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ran the publicity campaign, “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different—Drive High, Get a DUI.” The campaign recognized that vacation and holiday periods are the times that traffic deaths caused by alcohol and drugs are likely to spike higher. August through Labor Day is one of the deadliest periods to travel on our roads.
The National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress in 1913, applauded the NHTSA’s efforts to curtail impaired driving in our nation. Pointing out that almost 10,000 people lose their lives on our roads each year due to alcohol alone, the NSC has expressed concerns that the number of fatalities will rise because of the increasing incidence of drugged driving. Driving under the influence of anything is a disturbing and growing problem.
Unpacking the Phrase
What does it mean to say “feel different, drive different”? While grammar hawks may wince at the usage in the phrase, it doesn’t negate the message. Think about how your mood affects your driving. When you are tense about work responsibilities, upset because you had words with someone, or elated by a personal victory, do you find it more difficult to concentrate on the task of driving? If you are like most people, and you are honest, you will have to answer the question in the affirmative.
Now, consider how you feel when you are under the influence. Even if you don’t get behind the wheel, after you’ve had a couple of drinks you definitely “feel different.” It’s been proven that you will drive differently—and more poorly—when you are high.
NHTSA’s National Roadside Survey
The NHTSA first conducted a National Roadside Survey (NRS) in 1973; the most recent one reflects 2013-2014 data. These surveys randomly sample weekend, nighttime drivers in the lower 48 states. With the latest NRS, there is good news and bad.
The good news is that the number of drivers who are testing positive for alcohol consumption continues to fall. From 1973 to the latest survey in 2013-2014, the percentage of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher declined 80 percent among nighttime, weekend drivers. It’s worth celebrating the successful efforts of DUI campaigns focused on alcohol consumption.
The bad news is that drugged driving has gone up sharply. Whether from opioid abuse or marijuana, the numbers have rocketed higher in a short period of time. The 2013-2014 study recorded that 22.5 percent of nighttime, weekend drivers tested positive for drugs, which is a significant increase over 2007’s 16.3 percent of drivers. The drug usage figures include both legal and illegal drugs.
While the NHTSA’s roadside studies don’t delineate specific legal drugs, even over-the-counter medications such as cold remedies and antihistamines can throw your brain for a loop. If you drink just one beer on the way home from work on top of some legal medication, the alcohol can increase your reaction time and attention span problems, potentially causing a crash.
What Can I Do to Reduce DUI Deaths?
First, recognize that it’s never a good idea to drive while impaired by anything, meaning alcohol, drugs, or even distraction from your cell phone, as is especially prevalent among teens and young adult drivers.
Second, remember that impairment begins with your first sip of alcohol, especially if you are taking other medications that might exaggerate alcohol’s effects. Plan ahead—if you are attending a social function and intend to drink, make sure you have either a designated driver or another back-up plan.
In a 2018 survey, Allstate Insurance ranked Baltimore dead last in driving safety—200th out of 200 cities. In 2017, we were 199th out of 200. Could our poor driving record have anything to do with the explosion in drug abuse, especially opioid abuse, in our city? Maryland’s alcohol- and drug-related deaths reached an all-time high in 2017 of 2,282. While not all of those deaths occurred in car wrecks, this explosion of abuse has hit both Baltimore and our state especially hard.
Do your part by not driving while under the influence of anything.
A Skilled and Caring Baltimore Car Crash Attorney
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious car accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in any kind of car crash, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Call Steve today for a free initial consultation or use our convenient and confidential online form.