McQuiston: Drinking And Driving

The local driver of this vehicle hit earlier this month by a drunken driver fortunately walked away. Courtesy photo
The Jemez Agency

So a week and a half ago I got a call at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning from one of our clients. He was badly shaken up from an accident the night before. He was driving on a four lane highway just outside of Santa Fe when out of nowhere a drunk driver hit him. His car did two 360’s, rolled and ended up on the concrete median wall. 

By the grace of God, wearing a seat belt and driving a well-built car, he walked away. Shaken, but alive. We talked about what to expect with the claims process and a few other insurance related matters and said our goodbyes.

Monday morning I am relaying this story to the folks in my office when one of them says, “is that the same accident that killed two people?” It wasn’t. There was a second accident about an hour later on I-25, not 10 minutes away from my client’s accident involving a second drunk driver. This one, the driver was driving the wrong way on I-25 when she collided with a 23-year-old driver. Both died in the accident. Tragic. Preventable. Families lives changed forever.  

And scary for me personally. You see, I have a 16 year old who was supposed to be on I-25 around the time of the accident. His plans changed and he wasn’t on I-25 but he could have been, which got me thinking about how to talk to my teen about drinking and driving. 

But first some statistics.

How big is the problem?

Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31 percent) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19 percent) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, more than half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.

In 2014, more than 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.

Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes.

Marijuana use is increasing and 13 percdent of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.

Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

This is information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Now, that talk with my teen about drinking and driving. I went to the website of MADD. Some real good information there. Here are a few things they suggest.

  • Talk with your teens about underage drinking. It’s illegal and dangerous – and we’re not just talking about drunk driving. Over two-thirds of all deaths associated with underage drinking are not on the roadways. Have your teens take their (MADD) Power of You(th) pledge to not drink until 21 and never ride with someone who has been drinking.
  • Always wear a safety belt. The simplest way to prevent car crash deaths is to buckle up. According to the CDC, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use and only 54 percent of high school students reported wearing seat belts when riding with someone else. Talk to your teen about the importance of safety belts for passengers, as well as the driver.
  • Limit the number of passengers.Crash risk goes up when teens drive with other teens in the car. According to the CDC, nearly two out of three teen crash deaths that involve 16-year-old drivers happen when a new driver has one or more teen passengers.
  • Limit night time driving. It’s important for teens to practice night driving, but set restrictions on their driving times.
  • Create a parent-teen driving agreement. Reinforce your talks by working with your teen to create a parent-teen driving agreement. Learn more and download the parent-teen driving agreement from the CDC’s website.
  • When it comes to keeping teen drivers safe, parents are the key. So talk with your teens about safe driving habits, and more importantly, be a role model. Always practice safe driving habits like buckling up, avoiding distractions, and never drive after drinking.

The insurance industry has lots of materials available to help you discuss this subject with the whole family. Contact your insurance professional for more information.

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Note: Starting next week, The Jemez Agency is going to draw a name from its current client portfolio and give away two tickets to the Reel Deal movie theater. It’s our way of saying thanks for over 50 years of support from the folks in Los Alamos. Read next week’s Column in the Los Alamos Daily Post to find out the weekly winner.