The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 5, 2013


— If there is one obvious preventable cause of death, it’s drunk driving.

Yet, every day, 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle accidents that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s an average of one death every 48 minutes.

As if losing one’s parent, child or friend isn’t bad enough, the CDC adds that the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more that $51 billion.

Of course, those who drink and drive are not only putting their own lives at risk. It’s alarming to realize that we all share the roadways with impaired drivers — the CDC says 112 million times a year in the U.S. an impaired driver gets behind the wheel of an automobile.

West Virginians aren’t exempt, as many recent fatalities have shown.

According to the latest annual statistics provided in 2011 by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the state of West Virginia had:

- 27,837 third time offenders

- 10,549 fifth time offenders

- 90 DUI fatalities

- 27 percent: Total traffic deaths DUI related

- $414 million: State subsidy of drunk driving fatalities

Over a five-year span, West Virginia’s subsidy of drunk driving fatalities cost $2.5 billion. In those five years, there were 557 DUI fatalities in the Mountain State.

Enough is enough.

There are some measures in place to stem this illegal activity, including sobriety checkpoints and required ignition interlocks for repeatedly convicted DUI offenders.

But obviously the problem isn’t going away.

We need tougher legislation and tougher sentences to keep drunks off the road.

In West Virginia, as in many other states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08 or above.

There are a lot of factors that make gauging one’s BAC: a person’s weight, food consumption, time between drinks, type of drinks, etc. At the .08 BAC level, a person is 11 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than someone who has had nothing to drink (statistics by MADD).

Even a .02 percent BAC which represents just a few drinks, though technically not illegal, has shown a reduced loss of judgment and an increased difficulty in steering.

So to be safe, give the keys to a designated, sober driver.

Plan ahead.

It’s not a risk worth taking.