Consuming drugs or alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths; the greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident.
In 2006, approximately 17, 600 people died in traffic crashes involving alcohol, accounting for more than 40% of all traffic deaths. In that same year, over 1.46 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Furthermore, it is estimated that in 2002, Americans took over 159 million driving trips while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol-impaired drivers are a severe risk not only to themselves, but to other drivers. Drivers who are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also commonly charged with reckless driving, speeding, and controlled substance abuse. When charged with driving under the influence or any crime related to it, impairment due to alcohol or other drugs is never accepted as a defense.
Drivers can be charged with the very serious crimes of murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide. In every state, the minimum punishment for convicted drunk drivers involves automatic license suspension for a period of time that varies from state to state. Additionally, some states impose short jail sentences for first-time convicts, and most states mandate that offenders complete some type of treatment program.
Speeding is one of the greatest contributing factors in traffic deaths. With over 13,000 speeding-related deaths in 2004, speeding accounts for 30% of all fatal accidents. Speeding while under the influence of alcohol is considered to be the most dangerous driving situation for drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 years of age. Regardless, drinking and driving is not a safe scenario for anyone, no matter the age or experience behind the wheel.
Injuries due to drivers running red lights are also a common occurrence in drunk driving. More than 900 deaths per year and almost 2,000 injuries are attributed to red light running. Half of those deaths are pedestrians or drivers and passengers of other vehicles.
Alcohol is a depressant and may contribute to a person falling asleep at the wheel, especially if the driver has been up for long hours. In 2002, more than 100,000 accidents and approximately 1,500 deaths occurred because a driver dozed off while driving.