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Measures to Reduce DUI-Related Crashes

Drunk driving continues to be a global menace. In America, this problem has sparked numerous debates, with most focusing on effective measures to counter Driving Under Influence (DUI). According to the Center for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC), 28 people die in America every day from accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers. This translates to one person’s death in every 53 minutes. Further, the CDC reports that annual alcohol-related crashes cost the United States of America an approximate of $44 billion. Year after year, such statistics confirm that a drunk driver behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things in America. According to NHTSA, after Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed 30 years ago, the number of crashes and deaths reduced. The CDC expresses that today, there are chances that over 4 million people still drive while impaired every month. This shows the need for effective and severer measures and approaches to combat drunk driving. Since the withdrawal of licenses from drunk drivers has failed in battling the problem, stricter and stringent laws and regulations including the mandatory installation of ignition interlocks for every vehicle, frequent sobriety checkpoints, as well as tougher penalties should be employed to curb the hazards of drunk driving. 

 
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When MADD started their campaigns to reduce the occurrence of traffic crashes caused by drunk drivers, they employed the reduction of Blood Alcohol Content and the increase in legal drinking age as their major approaches. A comparison between 30 years ago and today indicates that today, less than half as many Americans die each year from drunk driving as they did in the 80’s. In 1983, 58% of the 42, 580 people who died from roadside collisions died as a result of alcohol-related collisions. In 2013, however, of the 32,700 traffic fatalities, only 31% deaths were alcohol-related. These statistics indicate that with stricter measures, the number of drivers getting behind the wheel while intoxicated will reduce. It is undeniable that major shifts such as the decision to have 0.8 as the legal BAC for driving, combined with other law enforcement policies have led to the reduced deaths.

Mandatory installation of ignition interlocks can contribute to the reduction of the accidents happening today. Ignition interlocks have the capacity to measure the alcohol content in a driver’s breath. If the content exceeds a certain level, the ignition locks keep the car from starting. They are largely used for people who have been convicted of drunk driving. These locks have, to an extent, been efficient in preventing repeat offenses. Research indicates that ignition interlocks are suitable as the number of DUI re-arrests have continuously reduced. Further, ignition interlocks installation have been substantively operative compared to license suspension in dissuading DUI recidivism. In North Carolina, for example, these interlocks have helped reduce the dangers and occurrences of DUI. States such as New Mexico and Louisiana have seen DUI deaths reduce by 30 through their mandatory requirement for drivers convicted of drunk driving to have ignition interlocks in their vehicles.

North Carolina has set up strict laws related to the use of interlocks amongst drivers convicted of drunk driving. In this state, first-time offenders who have a BAC content of 1.15 % are not allowed to drive any vehicle if their BAC is above 0.04. Further, if a driver has been sentenced on alcohol-related offenses, they are restricted from driving if their BAC is above 0.00. Such laws have seen the number of deaths resulting from alcohol-related crashes reduce drastically. Ignition interlocks, if included for first-time offenders in all states, therefore, might help reduce the occurrence of DUI-related crashed. Further, alcohol-related crashes might reduce if there is a mandatory implementation to have all vehicles installed with ignition interlock devices. A 2015 study revealed that if this were done, an approximate 85% of DUI-related crashed could be reduced. More than 1.25 million non-fatal injuries and 59,000 crashes would be prevented, argues the report. The report argues that since most drivers make about 80 trips before they are arrested (drunk), fatalities would then reduce if all cars were fitted with the ignition interlock without necessarily involving the police. If interlocks have produced suitable results yet they are currently only installed in vehicles owned by drivers with drunk driving records; then the crashes would probably reduce significantly. Critics, however, might argue that such devices are an infringement of personal rights. Vehicles would become more expensive and still, some people might even meddle with the devices. However, public awareness comes in handy as this approach would save more lives. If more people are educated on the need and essence of this changes, then more might embrace the approach.

Sobriety checkpoints have helped reduce the occurrence of DUI-related crashes. At these checkpoints, law enforcement officials stop in a specific sequence and evaluate drivers for any signs of inebriation. These checkpoints, in many cases, are set up during times and places when drunk driving is likely to happen including national holidays such as Labor day and near bars. Introduced in the 1930’s in Scandinavia, sobriety checkpoints became popular in the USA in the 1980s. Today, they have been authorized in about 38 states, where about 13 conduct them on a weekly basis. The major intent of sobriety checkpoints is the deterrence of drunk driving by increasing the professed risk of arrest. As such, checkpoints are usually highly discernible, expansively publicized, and regularly conducted. This publicizing is aimed at reminding drivers that drinking and driving should not mix. According to research by MADD, each dollar invested on checkpoints saves about 6-23 dollars for the community in alcohol-related crashes. With the knowledge that alcohol-related accidents cost over $132 billion in 2011, then sobriety checkpoints should be encouraged in all states.

Opponents of this approach argue that there are very few arrests yielded by sobriety checkpoints. Some further argue that saturation and roving patrols yield more than sobriety checkpoints hence they (sobriety checkpoints) are not effective. Funders and law enforcers, however, assert that the fewer the arrests, the more operational the approach. This is because the intent of checkpoints is to deter drunk driving rather than making arrests. Sobriety checkpoints are all about encouraging people to plan on safe driving even before they leave their premises to go drinking. Drivers can thus arrange for designated drivers or not drink at all. Stricter regulations on checkpoints such as lesser publicizing and withdrawal of licenses upon arrest may reduce DUI crashes significantly. If officers do not provide information about the specific place where a checkpoint will be on a certain day, then more people might be keen not to drink and drive. Further, if they know that they might be booked or have their licenses withdrawn, especially if one is not a first-time offender, people might sober up more on the roads. With time, the arrests will reduce than they are today. If the arrests lower each year, it means that sobriety checkpoints achieve the purpose and goals that they were designed for. The higher the deterrent rate, the lower the number of fatal collisions hence sobriety checkpoints would be effective in reducing DUI-related road carnage.

Stricter rules, laws, and regulations would also help in reducing the number of drivers who get behind the wheel while inebriated. In 2015, research was conducted in a bid to establish the strictest states in regards to DUI, and the effectiveness of such rules. Factors such as the minimum or maximum jail time, fines or mandatory ignition locks among others were put into consideration. Arizona, Connecticut, and Alaska were found to be the strictest whereas South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Washington as mentioned as the least lenient. The research showed that some of the most lenient states such as Montana had the highest number of accidents while some with the strictest laws such as Arizona had their DUI fatality at average. As such, when a driver knows that there are no fines or jail time for a first or second offense, people will not be largely deterred from driving while drunk. If stricter laws and policies are adopted, therefore, it is likely that the number of alcohol-related crashes will reduce significantly. Increasing the drinking age, for example, would also reduce the number of people below a certain age who drink and drive, subsequently reducing the occurrence of alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Another stricter rule, for example, would be to make multiple drunk driving offenses a felony in all the states. This would heighten the awareness of the consequences of intoxicated driving. In New York, for example, the alarming statistics of alcohol-related accidents called for stricter laws and regulations. For example, license reinstatement is denied to people who have had five or more drunk driving convictions. Further, DMV officials established that of a driver has been convicted for five times or more and has had at least one DUI conviction; then they will be denied their driving license. If such strict laws are to be adopted all over the nation, people would be more cautious, and the number of drunk driving crashes would significantly decrease. 

In conclusion, drunk driving continues to be a menace causing loss of lives and uncountable injuries. The distressing fact is the knowledge that these deaths and crashes can be utterly avoided. This essay has established that sobriety checkpoints, stricter laws, and mandatory ignition interlocks on all vehicles would be effective approaches to reducing DUI-related road carnage. The MADD campaigns demonstrate that there is still much more than can be done to address DUI. Though the numbers have significantly abridged from the early years, there are still way too many people dying from DUI-associated accidents. Since not all drivers are responsible enough to organize for a designated driver, call a friend or even call a cab once they are drunk, it is pertinent that stricter measures and laws be adopted.

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