Drunk driving has persisted as a serious problem since, well, the advent of cars. As they became faster, it became even more prevalent, ending with more fatalities and life-changing injuries. During the holidays, we all enjoy a few drinks at a few parties, but sometimes those great parties are the beginning of a terrible series of events that lead to grief and injury. The statistics in Oregon currently show that drunk driving fatalities are on the decline, which could be due to the amount of effort that law enforcement has been putting into the campaign against drinking and driving. This includes media campaigns as well as crackdowns by officers of the law.
According to Centurycouncil.org, the rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities per 100,000 people in 2011 was 3.2, which represents a 65% decrease from that of 1982. Between 1991 and 2011, the rate of fatalities per 100,000 people due to drunk driving had decreased 49% on a national scale, and had decreased 63% among those who are under 21 years old. It is estimated that 9,878 people were killed in crashes where a driver had an illegal blood alcohol content of above 0.08. Sixty-six percent of these people were the drivers themselves, 27% were motor vehicle occupants, and 7% were non-occupants. That is an average of one death do to drunk driving every 53 minutes.
In Oregon, the stats also show a decrease in deaths. In 2011, according to the same website, there were a total of 97 alcohol-impaired driving deaths, with five of those being cases of under 21 alcohol-impaired fatalities. There were 2.5 fatalities per 100,000 people, with only 0.5 of those being under 21 incidents. In the decade between 2001 and 2011, there was a decrease of 36.1% in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 people, and a 77.8% decrease in the same category for underage incidents.
Arrest data for Oregon in 2011 shows that law enforcement has truly been cracking down on drinking and driving. Eighty-seven people under the age of 18 were arrested for being under the influence, while the total number of people arrested in Oregon for driving under the influence was 14,966. Most Oregon residents have heard radio ads or seen billboards for the latest campaign, and with the decrease in fatalities that has been seen, it seems to be working. Law enforcement officials are not the only people who experience this tragedy firsthand, however. Two nurses volunteered to share their experiences with drunk driving. The first works in the emergency room; he explained that usually the driver is not injured, or if they are, they cannot feel it, because alcohol works as an anesthetic. They simply cannot feel any internal injuries, so the first thing that the nurses and doctors do is a scan to make sure that there are no spinal cord or brain injuries. After that, they make sure to care for any other small issues, and then start to look for a way to get the person home safely.
The long-term injuries are sent to the ICU, where the other nurse works. She was able to tell me about the kinds of injuries that she sees that are related to drunk driving. Internal injuries are the main problem that she sees: things like ruptured spleens from the force of the seat belt, head injuries from the head making contact with various surfaces in the car, cracked sternums, and broken clavicles. All of which are fairly minor compared to the kinds of injuries that affect a person for the rest of their lives. The types of injuries that never go away, and that remind us how terrible drunk driving accidents really can be.
by Kyra Young