Wednesday, January 2, 2008
The only reason that the accident made headlines was become Jim Leyritz used to be a pro baseball player. But otherwise, the public has become numb and apathetic to drinking and driving. DUI/DWI is a killer epidemic that is tolerated because …I don’t know why.
In 2005, the latest year available for statistics, 16,885 people died in alcohol related car wrecks. That’s enough caskets to fill a hockey or basketball stadium, but not enough to mobilize the population to stop an epidemic. It seems that people believe that drinking to excess is an acceptable social skill.
Alcohol is a bad drug. It exhibits tolerance in the body, meaning that the body needs more alcohol to get the desired effect and it also shows withdrawal. Those who are addicted, the chronic alcoholic, will get the shakes, seizures and even the DTs when a drink isn’t available. And while the liver is the well known target, alcohol, causes destruction of most of the body’s organs, decreasing heart function, killing brain cells, depressing the bone marrow from making blood cells and more.
But while alcohol damages the individual, its worst effect is the potential danger to others. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the legal blood alcohol limit to drive a car was 0.15. This number dropped to 0.10 and as more information became available as to the effect of alcohol on decision making and reaction time, the number has fallen to 0.08. Too bad that studies show that reaction time decreases even wit hone drink and a level of 0.02.
However there is no legal number for being drunk. 0.08 means you can’t drive a car legally, but if you’re a commercial trucker, that level falls to 0.04, and if you’re flying a plane, it’s zero, absolute sobriety. These numbers almost make sense; the bigger the load, the riskier the equipment being used, the lower the alcohol level that is acceptable. Almost, because we know that a load of lettuce in the back of an 18 wheeler is much more valuable cargo than a couple of kids in the back seat.
The drunk driver undertakes a premeditated act. That person drives to the bar, restaurant or friends house. Each drink leads to a decision whether to drive home or take a cab, to take responsibility for one’s self or to take a car and use it as a potential killing machine. On the roadside and in emergency departments around the country, these mistakes play out with fatal consequences.
So what do we do? We become our brother’s keepers and take the keys away .We don’t let friends drive drunk and we ask our legislators and the courts to take away the privilege of driving, until that person can act responsibly.
We can 16,885 an unacceptable number and treat drunk driving like the killer epidemic that it is.