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Drunk Driving Prevention

To save lives this holiday season, attack drunk driving at the source.

November 30, 2009  |  by Joseph Petrocelli - Also by this author


November brings us to the onset of the holiday season. And the holiday season essentially begins and ends with two big nights of drinking: the night before Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

The night before Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. College students are home from class and most workers do not have to work the next day. That allows many people who otherwise would be home to head out to a bar. Bars notice a discernible up tick in business and most police departments notice a discernible up tick in alcohol-related driving incidents.

Stopping It at the Source

As every cop and almost every American knows, there is no doubt that alcohol consumption increases the risk of a motor vehicle crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists alcohol impairment as a primary factor in traffic fatalities. In addition to unnecessary loss of life, drunk driving also leads to property damage, impeded traffic flow, and a strain on the resources of police, fire, and emergency medical personnel.

Drunk driving is an offense that crosses all social and economic lines. Research indicates that 20 to 25 percent of all U.S. drivers operated their vehicle while drunk over the past year. Roadside surveys have shown three percent of drivers to be legally impaired at any given time; this number is certainly higher during the holiday season. Research shows that about half of impaired drivers got drunk in a bar; the other half got drunk in a residential setting. This statistic can be a good starting point if you want to use education as a tool against drunk driving.

Educate bar owners about the consequences of over-serving patrons. Several courts have held bars responsible for patrons who have left the establishment drunk.

To trace drunk drivers back to the source of their inebriation, ask drunk drivers about where they were served. If a certain establishment is repeatedly mentioned as a location that over-serves, have a sit-down with the manager of the bar. You can also place undercover officers in the bar to monitor if the bartenders are willfully over-serving.

You can also enlist bar personnel to help stop the problem at its source. Train alcohol beverage servers in techniques that slow alcohol consumption and ask them to promote the consumption of food. Servers must understand that a blood alcohol reading as low as .05 percent can diminish motor skills (this level can be attained in as few as two or three drinks in some adults). Teach servers to identify patrons who have been over-served and advise them of techniques to handle these customers; these techniques include ending service and arranging for alternate transportation such as a taxi.

Statistics show that about half of drunk drivers get drunk in someone's home.

To combat this problem, launch an education campaign to advise hosts of their civil liability in allowing someone to leave a party intoxicated. Expand this education to include the consequences of allowing underage drinking.

Tagging Drunks

When identifying individuals with a high potential for driving drunk, pay extra attention to previous offenders. Repeat drunk drivers constitute a small percentage of the overall driving population, but they are disproportionately responsible for alcohol-related crashes. Research shows that somewhere between 33 and 75 percent of drivers arrested for drunk driving have been charged with a previous offense.

If you identify a repetitive drunk driver, take steps to monitor this ticking time bomb. Request that the judge impose the sanction of a restricted driver's license, which only allows the person to operate a car when necessary to get to and from work; this would restrict driving to mostly daylight hours. Also, request an identifying bumper sticker to be placed on the repeat offender's vehicle.

In some jurisdictions, the police have received permission to confiscate the license plates off of a repetitive drunk's car. This drastically increases the chance the vehicle will be stopped if operated on the roadway. In extreme cases, a global positioning system can be placed on the offender's car so police are alerted when he is driving during a restricted time. Also, a drunk driver may be confined to his home and monitored with an ankle bracelet.

A drunk driver's vehicle can also be impounded or immobilized during the period of suspension. Though this response will probably do little to deter a drunk from driving, it is one way to ensure the person completes an alcohol treatment program.

Tags: Drunk Driving, Patrol Response, Holiday Crimes


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