For years, it was socially acceptable to drink “one for the road,” or even indulge in a “road soda,” an alcoholic beverage consumed while driving home from work or the bar. This practice was a dangerous one, enabling people to feel that they had the capability to drink and drive long after it became illegal. Now there are plenty of alternative options to prevent people from drinking and driving including designated drivers and ride shares. Drunk driving incidents, while less common than they have ever been, still happen every day–accounting for nearly a third of all road-related fatalities in the United States–which means that there is still more work that needs to be done to prevent this issue.
Road-related accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, with over a million fatalities each year. Approximately one-third of these deaths are due to drunk driving, but the percentage of Illinois impaired driving deaths is shockingly higher than the national average at 47%. The tragedy behind this percentage is that these deaths are so easily prevented, as are the injuries, property damages, and associated traumatic experiences that all come from car accidents. Drunk drivers are not only a danger to themselves but to the innocent bystanders who happen to be on the road at the same time as them, driving responsibly from point A to point B.
Having even just a few drinks can greatly impair someone’s reaction time and decision-making skills. College students are especially at risk of drunk driving accidents since peer pressure will often cause designated drivers to give into the temptation to have a couple of drinks at parties with their friends before driving everyone home. At such a young age, the frontal lobe is not fully developed, and so these students lack the impulse control and consequential reasoning required to fully think through their actions. When getting behind the wheel after a few drinks, they don’t consider the fact that they could end up ruining their life as well as the lives of others.
The first step toward combatting drunk driving in the United States is taking accountability for your own actions as well as the actions of those around you. Before going out, decide amongst your friends who will be the designated driver for the night. Make sure that whoever volunteers for the position doesn’t drink throughout the night, or cuts themself off after one and follows it with lots of water and food to sober up. If your designated driver ends up getting drunk and none of your other friends are sober enough to drive, then book a car through a rideshare or taxi. Thankfully, in a city as populated as Springfield, rideshares are easy enough to come by, especially on weekends. If your friend insists that they are sober enough to drive, but it is clear that they’re lying, then do your best to convince them that they’re wrong and take their keys if they’re still fighting you on the matter.
If you’re going out by yourself, consider asking the host of the party if you can stay the night at their place, that way you can drink and have a good time without having to worry about driving home after. Of course, the easiest solution in this scenario is to not drink at all, even if others try to make you feel pressured. Let them know your stance on drunk driving.
If you or a loved one become the victim of a drunk driving incident, there are resources to help you get the compensation that you deserve. The state of Illinois penalizes all those caught driving above the legal alcohol limit, especially those who cause injury to others as a result of their negligence. However, these funds do very little to help those who are affected. The compensation that the victims are given through insurance rarely covers medical bills, funeral costs, vehicle repairs, and lost wages. To get the full amount that you are entitled to, contact a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will fight to get you the compensation that you are owed for medical and funeral bills, damaged property, and any additional pain and suffering that you experienced due to the incident.
The directors of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services are also pushing for more funding to help citizens who are victims of tragic accidents like drunk driving get the help that they need to cover their medical bills. If you are struggling to navigate Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), then consider looking into signing up for access to more affordable healthcare. You just might qualify.