Christmas time is supposed to be a magical time of year, and also a time that brings a family together. These two concepts of Christmas now mean something very different to my family. After a family Christmas that was going great just like every year, then the unexpected happened. Phones of family members began to ring from everywhere, with news no one wanted to hear. My cousin Zach had left the gathering to head home when he suddenly was hit head-on by a drunk driver. The news was horrible, but thankfully the Christmas magic was on our side and allowed him to walk away from the accident with only minor injuries. Many people don’t realize all the effects behind alcohol, and getting behind the wheel. Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and affects more people than one may think.
Alcohol is very harmful to people in several different aspects. When alcohol enters a person’s body, it causes several changes to take place. One major thing that the appearance of alcohol in the blood stream causes is the lagging of major control centers in the body. The amount a person consumes is put into categories of a level, and a decimal, or BAC. The levels range from a level one to a level five. A person is classified into these by the percent of alcohol in the body and the traits/symptoms he or she may be showing. The traits or symptoms can range from a change in mood, senses, judgment, movement, becoming nauseous, breathing and heart rate (Mendralla and Grosshandler 16-18). Even if a person has only had one drink and his or her body may seem perfectly normal, some of these changes have already begun to happen. Many people don’t realize that alcohol doesn’t digest in your body, it soaks into your blood and the walls of organs like fluid to a paper towel (Mendralla and Grosshandler 16). Due to people thinking that by only having a few drinks their bodies are completely fine, they tend to believe that they are perfectly capable of completing normal tasks they do such as driving. The most common person to get in an accident among those who drink and drive is a binge drinker (Galbicsek). As stated in the article “The Dangers of Drunk Driving: The Truth Brought to Life”, “One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetime. Also, the average drunk driver will drive 80 times impaired before an arrest…” This is scary to think that people are willing to stand back and watch as they allow friends and family to drive this many times under the influence. Madigan Army Hospital did a model high-speed crash and recorded what happened every second of their seven-tenths of a second time frame. They wanted to see what kind of damage and stress was put on the vehicle and a person in the accident. In this short amount of time, the car becomes torn apart and the person would have begun to experience injuries (Mendralla and Grosshandler 28-30). By standing back and watching them leave is putting many people in harm. This bystander has not only let a possible friend, family member, or acquaintance leave and advance the possibility of endangering themselves, but also the possibility of another driver. Along with involving the other innocent driver, the drunk driver has now involved many other people. Out of these, some are put in danger whether they were in the accident or not. First responders, police, and the bartender, and possibly the boss of the bar that person was recently being served at are now at risk. Often times the thought of the victims and your own family also being affected gets looked past. By standing back and watching, one may have just let several people be put in a bad place or even allowed another death due to drunk driving.
When drinking, some intoxicated people may go out on the roads but they aren’t thinking about the consequences that they may end up facing later that night. There are many laws that have been put in place to help enforce no use of alcohol behind the wheel. In the United States, it is now illegal for anyone over the legal drinking age to have an alcohol content of .08 while driving (“The Dangers”). This law also goes along with driving recreational vehicles. Drinking underage is illegal itself, but there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving (Galbicsek). Now, thinking about the statistics of how many times a person will drive under the influence without getting caught allows for people to feel a sense of security that tonight won’t be the night they get caught. Their luck will soon run out and the laws will soon come into effect. The consequences they will face depends on several things such as if they were pulled over or in a wreck, and if they’ve ever been charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) before. A person pulled over as a first-time offender will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor due to no injury or deaths being present (DMV). If this is someone’s first offense they can look to face fines, required education classes, probation or community service, and the possibility of their license being suspended. Many of these penalties will carry over for multiple time offenders, but they will also face more harsh ones like jail time, house arrest, an impounded car, or an ignition interlock system being installed (“The Dangers”). The driver may also be charged with a felony offense if there has been an accident involving a death or injury, extremely high BAC, several convictions, or a child was involved (DMV). Besides these consequences, this person will face more than they may have thought of. Consequences that will pertain to his or her everyday life such as guilt from the accident they may have caused, missing out on opportunities from due to this being on their record or the possibility of losing their job or license will soon begin to appear. This can also cause long-lasting things to stay with them throughout a long period of time like this permanently being on your record and increased insurance rates. After being charged with a DUI the driver’s insurance company may increase his or her rates dramatically or force them to find a new company due to dropping them completely (“The Dangers”). These laws that have been put in place to protect everyone. Drinking and driving are not to be taken lightly and laws will be enforced. If someone chooses to disobey the law they once again are endangering themselves and many others. They also are creating a history for themselves that will stay with them for quite a while. These laws help ensure that the irresponsible drivers hopefully learn a valuable lesson if they choose to disobey.
There are many ways to prevent drunk driving. A lot of it has to do with personal planning and the morals of the individual to begin with. If people understand the consequences that can happen from drunk driving before they make the decision to go and drink, it may help them in the long run. There are many little planning details that can help with determining if that person will make it home that night alive, or even without facing charges or injuring someone else. If a person plans to drink they should plan for a way home, whether that means having someone with you be designated to stay sober and drive, or by calling a taxi, family member, or friend. If a bystander knows that someone is drunk and is attempting to drive, it is important someone tries to stop them by taking their keys and distracting them while someone arranges them a sober ride (United States Department of Transportation).This may be very difficult for some because they don’t like confrontation. The driver may become defensive or even upset with everyone for getting in the way of their plan to drive, but the peers should never give in (“The Dangers”). If people can be strong enough to tell their closest friends or family they are making a life-threatening decision knowing they make be at risk of upsetting that person getting upset will eventually help influence their decisions of what they should consider after drinking. It may be a long night for the person standing up to someone bad desire but they will most likely end up regretting getting upset and be very thankful to have a strong person to watch over them and their decisions. Everyone has the power to help keep each other safe and are responsible for making their own good choices. If anyone sees an intoxicated person on the road, report them so they aren’t given more time to potentially seriously injure themselves or others (United States Department of Transportation). Always wear a seatbelt when on the road to protect yourself from the possible drunk driver on the road. It is important that people become susceptible to the laws set for drinking and driving. If they understand that they aren’t set to ruin fun times, but instead to help protect everyone. Of age drinkers don’t have to stop the party, they just need to make sure they have a plan for their transportation before a drop of alcohol touches their lips. If they feel they aren’t strong enough to follow through with the plan, they need to find someone that will hold them to it. It’s very important to understand all these things to be able to protect everyone.
Drunk driving will forever change the lives of many people. December 28, 2016, the life of Parker Sturgis was forever changed. Parker had been at a party and decided it was time to go home; his judgment was very shaky due to his consumption of alcohol. He felt he didn’t need to listen to his friends and stay the night at the house of the party host or find a sober driver. Parker left and was then in a tragic accident; his mind had begun to play tricks on him as he thought he had seen a deer and swerved. The vehicle then hit a culvert and rolled three times, finally ejecting him through the windshield causing him to lose his life. If Parker had just called his family and asked for a ride or stayed at the party, he would still be here. His death has affected many of his fellow friends and family forever. It is very important to know that the choice you make of getting behind the wheel after drinking will cause many other people to have to deal with the consequences, too.
- “The Dangers of Drunk Driving: The Truth Brought to Life..” SR22InsuranceQuotes, 2013, www.sr22insurancequotes.org/dangers-of-drunk-driving/.
- “Drinking and Driving – Effects of Drinking Alcohol.” Alcohol Rehab Guide, www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/crimes/dui/.
- Mendralla, Valerie, and Janet Grosshandler. Drinking and Driving, Now What? Rosen Pub., 2012.
- “Nebraska DUI & DWI Laws & Enforcement.” DMV.ORG, www.dmv.org/ne-nebraska/ automotive-law/dui.php.
- United States Department of Transportation. “Drunk Driving.” National Highway TrafficSafety Administration, 2016, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.