Monday, December 1, 2014

Impaired Driving Awareness Month: 53 feet to safety

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a sponsor of the National Impaired Driving Awareness Month campaign, along with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and the Governors’ Highway Safety Association. New Year's Day is the deadliest on the roads: The second-deadliest is Thanksgiving Day. In between, the daily average is 45 impaired driving related deaths. The rest of the year daily average? Twenty eight per day.

In the United States the NHTSA tallied 10,322 people killed in alcohol-related collisions, representing a third of 2012 traffic deaths. One out of every 10 arrests for all crimes in the U.S. were for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Operating While Impaired (OWI), accounting for 1 out of every 80 licensed drivers. The death toll is higher than the previous year, despite tougher penalties, safer cars and more enforcement.
Four more facts:
  • In 2012, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol - that’s more than the population of Texas – according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • Intoxicated driving involvement in fatal crashes was 4.5 times higher at night than during the day (36 versus 8 percent) – according to the NHTSA.
  • Nine of 10 drinking and driving incidents happen after drinking with family, friends or co-workers – common during the holidays. “There is almost always somebody around who could be part of the solution,” says
  • Highway alcohol-related deaths are 100 percent preventable. Passive alcohol detectors can measure a driver's BAC before starting the vehicle and render it unable to start. If the driver is intoxicated, he isn't driving. Critics claim the technology has not been perfected. However, the technology already exists for the non-invasive technique (see related examiner article), although the public appetite for the device does not. The idea was suggested four years ago in the book What the Early Worm Gets as the way to conclusively eliminate all drinking and driving accidents.
“Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable,” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”

Drunk or buzzed driving is the act of operating or driving a motor vehicle while motor skills are impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the United States, the point of impairment is pegged at .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). However, studies have demonstrated that motor-skill impairment begins at much lower BACs. Reaction time is 1/5 of a second for an unimpaired driver. With alcohol in the system, reaction time is slowed to 4/5 of a second at .06 BAC. At 60 mph, a second means 88 feet. A fifth of a second is 17.5 feet, 4/5 of a second is 70.4 feet. The family minivan slamming on the brakes in front of an impaired driver is 53 feet closer, reaction-time wise, compared to an unimpaired driver.

Lab research indicates at 0.02 to 0.05 BAC, the ability to see or locate moving lights correctly is reduced as is reaction time and the ability to judge distance. A 2014 study demonstrated crash risk increases 42 percent after just a single drink. (See Crash risk jumps at 0.01 BAC) Even if not obviously impaired, at 0.05 BAC drivers are twice as likely to have a crash as before they started drinking...At 0.08 BAC drivers are five times more likely to have a crash than before they started drinking. Over .08, the crash likelihood jumps to 10 times that of a sober driver.

Enveloped in the push to legalize marijuana today is the illusion that driving “high” is somehow safer. It's still illegal to drive under the influence of any drug, not just alcohol, even in states where marijuana isn't illegal to possess or consume. Smoking or ingesting weed impairs judgment and motor coordination and slows reaction time, and a stoned person has an increased chance of being involved in and being responsible for an accident. Research from the NHTSA indicates that when drivers are killed in motor vehicle crashes, drugs other than alcohol are involved about 18 percent of the time. That means that one in six drivers killed in traffic mishaps are under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

Another 2010 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that of all drivers involved in auto crashes, 6.8 percent tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The same survey found that 21 percent of those drivers also were above the legal BAC level.

Visit for a replay of the Bringing Inspiration To Earth show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus an interview with Scott Stevens on Health Media Now and one at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international author from the UK, among his works is the Alzheimer's book "Time to Let Go."