Car accidents pose a significant threat to people’s health and wellbeing. In the United States, the number of police-reported car accidents is over 7 million, and every person who uses cars for transportation is at risk (National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2018). One of the most prevalent causes of car accidents is drunk driving. It is particularly prevalent among young people, who do not always think about the possible consequences of driving a car while intoxicated. Hence, a policy change is required in order to reduce the number of car accidents and protect people from injuries and death as a result of traffic accidents.
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Specifically, our country needs to implement the national law that approves making twenty-one a legal minimum drinking age, setting up more sobriety checkpoints, and requiring the use of ignition interlocks among individuals with drunken driving charges. Still, some people disagree that such a substantial change is necessary. The present paper will seek to provide arguments in favor of the proposed policy change by reviewing the relevant statistics regarding car accidents and explaining how the policy could help.
First of all, although many people believe motor vehicles to be a safe method of transportation, cars are more dangerous than any other mode of transportation. According to Ingraham (2015), the number of passenger deaths per 1 billion passenger miles for cars is 7.28, compared to 0.43 for trains, 0.24 for subway, and 0.11 for buses. This means that the risk of dying in a car accident is around 16, 30, and 66 times higher than while traveling by train, subway, and bus, respectively. There are many reasons why cars are more dangerous than any other mode of transportation. For example, the high weight and speed of cars increase the scale of possible damage in an accident (Cooley, 2018).
Additionally, car traffic is much heavier, and thus there is a greater chance of collision. The most important reason, however, is the human factor. Anyone who has a driver’s license can legally drive a car, regardless of the amount of experience they have had or the number of hours they slept last night. In contrast with highly trained train operators or pilots, car drivers are regular people who are prone to distractions and rake careless risks, such as driving after drinking alcohol or talking on their phones. The human factor makes car transportation particularly risky, and thus, addressing it could help to reduce the number of car accidents.
Secondly, many people think that drunk driving is not as prevalent as portrayed on the news and by legislators. Nevertheless, the statistics on drunk driving show that it is an issue of great concern. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019), “more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics” (para. 3). Since this figure only represents those who were identified by the police, the actual prevalence of drunk driving is much higher. Research-based on anonymous surveys indicates that the numbers are far higher than the ones reported by the police.
For instance, CDC (2019) cites a study that found 111 million self-reported incidents of drunk driving in one year. The study of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF, 2017) found that 11.7% of American adults admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in the past 12 months. The number of deaths resulting from drunk driving was 10,497 in 2016 out of the total 37,461 deaths in car accidents in the same year (NCSA, 2018; TIRF, 2017). This means that the prevalence of drunk driving is high in the United States, and the government needs to address this issue as soon as possible.
The third argument often presented by people who oppose stricter drunk driving-related regulation is that the increased control will not be effective, and people will still drive under the influence of alcohol. However, an increase in regulatory control of drunk driving would make people more aware of their behavior and could prevent at least some of the incidents. As reported by TIRF (2017), over 48.6 percent of people who drove while drunk in the past year admitted that they thought it was “OK to drive” in their condition (p. 4). The second most popular reason (12.8%) was that it was a short trip to their destination, and 4.9% believed that they would not be caught (TIRF, 2017).
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The increased regulatory control over drunk driving would be effective in all of these cases. On the one hand, people will be more aware of the possible legal consequences of drunk driving due to the increase of sobriety checkpoints. On the other hand, the use of ignition interlocks would provide drivers with a more accurate understanding of their condition, showing whether or not it is safe for them to drive. Moreover, the introduction of the proposed regulation will also be associated with increased media coverage, which could raise awareness about the risks of drunk driving. Based on this information, improved regulatory control would prevent a significant share of drunk driving cases.
Finally, there are also many people who are unaware of the relationship between the legal drinking age and drunk driving. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, 2017) explains that young people drink larger amounts of alcohol than adults do, increasing the risk of various incidents, including violence and car accidents. Research by Park, Scott, Adams, Brindis, and Irwin (2014) shows that 22.5% of young adults reported driving under the influence of alcohol.
The share of drunk young drivers involved in fatal car accidents was 32% in 2012 (Park et al., 2014). This means that a significant part of drunk driving accidents involves young drivers. The risks resulting from drunk driving among youths are also higher because they are less experienced in driving and are more likely to drive carelessly (Park et al., 2014). Hence, increasing the legal drinking age on the national level could help to address the problem of drunk driving.
All in all, cars are a risky mode of transportation, and car accidents result in thousands of deaths each year. Drunk driving is responsible for about one-third of these deaths since it is more dangerous and prevalent than many people think. Improving the regulatory control with regards to drunk driving would help to improve road safety and decrease the number of car accidents, including fatal ones.
The proposed regulation targets various factors contributing to the problem of drunk driving. On the one hand, it would reduce the share of people who drive while drunk due to the use of ignition interlocks and the increased number of sobriety checkpoints. On the other hand, it would decrease the percentage of young people who drink and drive. Based on the information from the research and official publications, these outcomes would have a significant influence on the rate of car accidents in the United States.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Impaired driving: Get the facts. Web.
Cooley, B. (2018). Top 5 ways cars have gotten more dangerous. Web.
Ingraham, C. (2015). The safest — and deadliest — ways to travel. The Washington Post. Web.
National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2018). Summary of motor vehicle crashes. Web.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017). Underage drinking. Web.
Park, M. J., Scott, J. T., Adams, S. H., Brindis, C. D., & Irwin Jr, C. E. (2014). Adolescent and young adult health in the United States in the past decade: little improvement and young adults remain worse off than adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(1), 3-16.
Traffic Injury Research Foundation. (2017). Alcohol-impaired driving in the United States: Results from the 2017 TIRF USA road safety monitor. Web.