When we think about someone driving drunk or under the influence of another substance, we usually conjure up a similar image: a man, alone, in the middle of the night, throwing a beer can out the window and swerving from side to side like a maniac because he’s either gone mad or is about to fall asleep.
That image is in some ways comforting because it removes us from the possibility of getting hurt by or having some responsibility for the people who drive drunk. After all, that image suggests we’re safe if we don’t stay out into the early hours of the morning, and that lonesome man isn’t someone we know, they’re someone out of control.
And yet, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are more than 300,000 instances every day of driving under the influence. Not all of those, we can be sure, occur after 2 am.
And while we aren’t wrong to picture a man in that image—three times as many men drive drunk as women—the number of women per annum still isn’t low (167,327).
This man is also not necessarily some stranger you have no responsibility for. 17 million Americans drive drunk every year, that’s more than 5% of the overall population. Think of 20 people you know, one of them has probably driven drunk this year. What’s more, many people who drive drunk continue to do so even after they’ve been caught, even after they’ve had their licenses taken away. As many as 80% continue driving after that.
Finally, when you think about that man being alone, you may be wrong. Many states have strict laws for those who drive with others in the car when they’re drunk, particularly when they drive with children. The reason for this is obvious: first, it’s a horribly risky situation to put a child in, and second, the situation is unfortunately relatively common.
As heartbreaking as these statistics are, they do tell us one important thing: we’ve had impaired vision when it comes to drunk driving. Drunk driving is common, and those who are perpetrating it can be our friends, family, and neighbors. They can be driving at any hour, under the influence of any substance. And they can be driving with children in the car, endangering children in your car, and endangering children on sidewalks, in yards, and anywhere imaginable.
We all have a responsibility to be more vigilant over ourselves, our children, and everyone we know to make sure not only that we aren’t drinking and driving, but that no one else is. Also, that not just our children but no children are left in the vicinity of those who may be able to endanger them due to reckless behavior.