Drunk and Impaired Driving
Crime Stoppers Urges, “Report Drunk or Impaired Drivers!”
Law enforcement, various community groups and especially Crime Stoppers of Northwest Ontario want impaired drivers behind bars instead of behind the wheel.
Dedicated to “community policing,” Crime Stoppers – a partnership among law enforcement, the media, and concerned citizens – collaborate to keep cities, towns and hamlets crime-free. Collectively, their efforts have contributed to significant reductions in Ontario and Minnesota’s overall crime rates, but drunk-driving incidents have not declined at the same rate as other crimes.
In our Crime Stoppers’ region, homicide and manslaughter have declined approximately 8 percent since 2001.
In our service area, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains one of the leading causes of preventable death among young men between 18 and 25 years old.
Across northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario, more than a dozen different campaigns currently send one single message: “Do not drink and drive!” Crime Stoppers wants to cut the high cost of drunk driving by increasing citizens’ reports of drunk or impaired drivers.
“Drinking and driving hurts everyone.”
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation calls impaired driving “one of Ontario’s most significant road safety issues.”
The Ministry reports, in the last decade, more than 2000 people have died and more than 50,000 have sustained serious injuries in drunk-driving accidents.
Donna Berger, Director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety similarly reports, “Drunk driving accounts for one-third of Minnesota’s traffic deaths each year, which underscores how this issue remains a number-one public safety concern. In the last five years, 651 people have been killed in drunken driving crashes. These fatal crashes involved drivers or pedestrians who were at or above the 0.08 legal limits.” Whereas most authorities agree with Berger that, “Motorists are making safer, smarter decisions, and enhanced, targeted enforcement and education programs are working,” nevertheless they believe that ordinary citizens’ timely intervention with drunk and impaired drivers could reduce accidents and arrests by more than 10 percent.
Adding to the on-road risks of other drivers and property are the plentitude of drivers using hand-held and other communication type devices while behind the wheel.
“A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver,” Human Factors 2006, a study from the University of Utah indicates that the impairment associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as that associated with drunk driving.
Further conclusions and studies such as that by Monarch University suggest Drivers using hand-held devices while driving are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Other Driving Concerns Causing Accidents
Although Crime Stoppers’ most prominent concern is driving under the influence, alcohol is not the only source of worry about motorists’ safety. On the region’s treacherous roads, other impairments pose equally serious risks:
- Sleep-deprivation and fatigue – Bound by strict schedules and motivated by bonuses for on-time performance, commercial drivers are especially inclined to keep on driving not only beyond the legal time limits but also beyond their brains and bodies’ tolerance. Transportation Safety Investigators cite driver fatigue as the most significant cause in approximately half of all commercial trucking and passenger bus accidents. Research indicates that a person who goes eight extra hours without sleep suffers the same disorientation as a person over the legal limit for alcohol consumption; a person who goes more than twelve extra hours without sleep may suffer serious tachycardia and experience hallucinations. Not surprisingly, many vacationers from Chicago and Minneapolis put themselves and their families at risk by driving without rest or sleep.
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications – Most best selling cold remedies and pain relievers come with standard cautions: “This product may cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate machinery while taking this product.” Yet most drivers reason, “If I bought it over-the-counter at my local drug store, how dangerous can it really be?” Pharmacists stress that Benadryl was originally developed as a sleep aid, and most anti-histamines make people sleepy. They especially warn that over-the-counter medications frequently interact with or intensify the effects of prescription drugs. Pseudo-ephedrine, for example, exaggerates the effects of anti-depressants; it also intensifies the effects of alcohol. Oxycontin, the most frequently prescribed and most widely abused prescription painkiller, poses especially serious risks for drivers, slowing their reaction times and compromising their judgment. Other mood regulators and amphetamines also cause serious impairment.
- Illegal drugs – Marihuana (marijuana) accounts for almost two-thirds of the region’s drug-related crime, yet surveys indicate that 75 percent of men and women under age 25 consider cannabis “less dangerous than alcohol.” Many who would not consider driving after drinking nevertheless feel safe to drive after smoking marijuana. Because the active agent in cannabis affects perception, especially the user’s ability to calculate time and distance, marihuana smokers face at least the same risk of accident and injury as their friends who have had too much to drink. Of course, the common practice of combining drinking and smoking substantially aggravates the risks.
Distraction Driving Concern Grows
Distracted driving is defined as engaging in any secondary activity, which takes primary attention away from the driver’s task on the open road. These distractions can include adjusting stereos, eating, disciplining children, searching for items but is most frequently defined by drivers using wireless handsets such as cellular phones.
Texting and using Smartphone apps while driving are, in fact, considerably more dangerous than drunk driving.
In 2010, a study by the United States National Highway Transportation Safety Board reported that a person texting while driving was 23 times more likely to cause a serious-injury accident than a person with blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
A person texting while driving typically pays absolutely no attention to road and traffic conditions and frequently swerves across several traffic lanes while inputting numbers to make calls or hitting keys to ask for directions from maps type sites. International research shows that 20% to 30% of all collisions involve driver distraction (Alberta Transportation, 2011).
Report Irresponsible Drivers
Operators take calls at the Crime Stoppers Hotline 24/7/365, and relay information directly to police and law enforcement agencies. They do not, however, record calls or gather personal information from tipsters. Crime Stoppers assures your anonymity. Therefore, if you see a drunk or impaired driver, call right away. You may save a life, and qualify for a handsome financial award by calling Crime Stoppers hotline.