Every alarm in the free world was triggered and every policy and procedure on airport security was re-examined. However, policy, procedure and public attitude toward a domestic threat, which costs nearly 12,000 American lives per year, remain the same. Yes, drunken driving.
New Year’s Eve has passed, and I’m afraid to look at how many people have needlessly had their lives cut short or have been seriously injured for no reason.
Unlike terrorism or attempts at terrorism, there is no shock or horror when someone dies from a drunken driving related accident, aside from the loved ones of the victim. This is because of our complacency with drunken driving; it is as if we accept that 12,000 deaths a year from drinking and driving is inevitable.
The sad part of this whole situation is that we have complete control over this cause of death. The prevention of drunken driving related death and injury has a 100 percent success rate. If you don’t drink and drive, you can’t kill or hurt anyone from drunken driving, including yourself.
Here are some costs associated with a DUI on your record, aside from the death, physical and emotional pain done onto others. Driving while under the influence is one of the most inconsiderate things someone can do, so here are some selfish reasons not to drink and drive:
• Monetary cost: If you add up the legal costs, which includes bail, fines, lost wages, insurance premium increases, etc., it can end up to be roughly $10,000. Would you rather pay a taxi driver $10 to take you home or pay $10,000 for a police officer to give you a ride?
• Employment: Some companies might go so far as terminating an individual’s employment with a DUI on their record. As hard as it is to find a job in this economy, a DUI probably would not make it any easier for any future job prospects.
• Embarrassment: A breathalyzer is installed into your vehicle and you must blow in it before you can start your engine. Your family and friends wonder why you own a car yet you can’t drive because of a suspended license. You also will carry the stigma of being an irresponsible person to others in your life.
Our government has met us in the middle by implementing “X52” which stands for extra law enforcement patrols 52 weeks a year. It is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Ultimately, it is up to us as a community to curb drinking and driving, whether it is teaching our kids or stopping a friend from driving if they have been drinking.
One of the most difficult things I’ve witnessed in my life was visiting a friend in a hospital bed with a respirator to help him breathe, pins and screws in his legs, several broken bones and tubes everywhere. He was in there because a drunken driver wouldn’t stop while he was walking through a crosswalk. My friend is lucky to be alive but the damage has been done.
This column probably has not changed anybody’s mind on their decision to drink and drive. My hopes are that others who have read this column will become more vigilant when a friend or family member who has been drinking decides to get behind the wheel.
Chances are that someone knew the driver of a drunken driving accident and was in a position to prevent it, yet chose not to. Complacency and apathy are killers. Let’s change our attitude toward this senseless and preventable cause of death.
Chris Chau, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, is an assistant records officer with the Employment Security Department. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, he can be reached at email@example.com.