Sobering statistics (part one)

You have most likely seen the roadside DUI signs that say “You cannot afford it.” I would like to say that society cannot afford it. DUI drivers have a significant impact on the emotional, psychological and physical aspects of society that cannot be ignored. This article will address those impacts and other shocking facts about DUI drivers in Pennsylvania and most especially right here in Warren County. With December being National Drunk Driving Prevention Month, it is important that we address this topic. Further, it will hopefully assist you in making well informed decisions about your alcohol consumption especially during this upcoming holiday season. It’s your life and you must be responsible for thinking about the lives of others that you may impact when drinking and driving.

Last year in the state of Pennsylvania, 404 people died in alcohol related crashes. That means on an average day, 33 alcohol related crashes occurred, 1.1 persons were killed in alcohol related traffic crashes, and 24 persons were injured in alcohol related traffic crashes. In fact, alcohol-related crashes made up 10% of the total car crashes but resulted in 31% of all persons killed in crashes. (Alcohol related crashes are more likely to result in death than those not related to alcohol.) Those in the vehicle driven by the drinking driver made up 90% of the deaths-something to consider when offered a ride with an impaired driver, or if you are thinking of driving under the influence! Pennsylvania experienced an increase in alcohol related crashes to 11,956 from 11,805 in the previous year.

Of particular concern to citizens of Warren County is the number of vehicle crashes related to alcohol. Statewide, 27% of DUI stops by law enforcement are because of crashes, while in Warren County that is 43%. Staggering.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a medical measurement used to describe the percentage of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. The “legal limit” for Pennsylvanians is .08 BAC. Statewide, the average drunk driver has a BAC of .17, but in Warren County it’s .20. At that alcohol level, a person is exhibiting major impairment of all physical and mental functions, is experiencing feelings of euphoria and has difficulty standing, walking, talking, distorted perception and judgment. This is a person definitely incapable of safe driving.

In Pennsylvania, the population with the highest amount of drinking drivers in crashes is ages 21-25 at 2942 followed by ages 26-30 at 1773. An interesting fact is the age in which a violation takes place: ages 21-24 is 19%, the highest age bracket statewide. In Warren County, the highest age bracket is 45-54 in Warren County at 23.8% (compared to statewide at 16.8%).

So before you drink alcohol, plan ahead be responsible and be safe. If you have been drinking do not drive period! Remember to obtain a nondrinking designated driver. Set a limit for yourself and stay aware of it. For men, it should be no more than 4 drinks and women no more than 3 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Be smart and do not drive. You cannot afford it and neither can society. Do not become a statistic!

Resources: Court Reporting Network & Pennsylvania DUI Association.

Patrick J. Damond, Licensed Professional Counselor, coordinates Substance Abuse Services for Family Services of Warren County. Become part of the 418 Club and help Family Services reach 418 “likes” on Facebook in time for its 125th anniversary on April 18, 2013. Just like its page at www.facebook.com/fswcinc and invite your friends and family to do the same.