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Why is Impaired Driving a Social Norm?

alcohol drinking and driving impaired driving Mar 24, 2022

Written by Kyra Boring

Have you or someone you know ever gotten behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol? Have you or a friend ever said, “I feel just fine! I’ve only had a few drinks.” Although we may often hear people swear they will never drive while under the influence, the reality is that too many people do it every day. Why is this?

As reported by American Addiction Centers (AAC), “More than 1 in 10 millennials believe they could drink more than the legal limit and still drive.” Nowadays, driving under the influence has become a social norm. The AAC says that, “20% of men and 7% of women would let a friend drive drunk to avoid an argument. 40% let friends drive drunk because they’ve done it before,” and “1 in 4 drunk drivers are headed to a ‘hook-up’ location.” As a society, we have made impaired driving acceptable through excuses.

Did you know that in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Transportation Safety (CDC) reported that 12.6 million people were found to be driving under the influence of marijuana or other illicit drugs? Or that an average of 29 people die in alcohol-impaired crashes every day? That’s one death every 50 minutes. 

So what can we do to stop this? In the same report, the CDC lists some strategies a city can use to reduce or prevent alcohol-impaired driving. First, and what I think is most important, is school-based instructional programs. Prevention starts with education. The CDC’s other strategies include strict alcohol-impaired driving laws, publicized sobriety checkpoints, and highly visible patrolling police cars. 

These strategies are applicable to the local area of Ventura County, as well as severe drunk driving sentences. According to the Ventura County Behavioral Health DUI Program, a DUI could potentially give you up to $21,000 in fines, fees, and insurance, loss of driver’s license, a criminal record and possible jail time. Not to mention the personal trauma one might go through if a friend, family member, or innocent bystander were to be injured or killed in an impaired driving accident.

Having a city work hard and use strategies to prevent impaired driving is crucial, but we can do more. Impaired-driving prevention can start with you. The University of Missouri Health Care shares some things to consider when social plans involve drugs or alcohol: 

“Identify a designated driver for your group. Do not let friends drive after drinking. Take their keys. If you have been drinking, get a ride home from a friend who has not been drinking or call a taxi. If you host a party with alcohol, offer alcohol-free beverages and remind guests to designate a sober driver. As a parent or caregiver, talk to your teens about the dangers of drinking and driving. Ask them to sign a pledge promising to not drink and drive. If you suspect a drunk driver on the road, call the police and provide the location, direction the vehicle is headed, the vehicle’s make, model, color, and license plate number.”  

If we stay educated, spread awareness, and all work together, we can make our streets a little safer.