The holidays are upon us in full force now, and we here at Car Rental Express want to wish you safe and happy travels. We also recognize that a lot of people like to drink during this time, so we wanted to address a very serious issue: drunk driving.
Drinking and driving is a serious safety issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.” Financially, the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion. These statistics do not change for people using rental cars. Thankfully, there are effective measures that can help prevent injuries and deaths from alcohol-impaired driving.
What Constitutes Drunk Driving?
In order to be considered a drunk driver, a person's blood-alcohol level (BAC) must surpass legal limits (typically 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or .08%) when they are operating a motor vehicle. Most cases of drunk driving see drivers with a BAC well above the legal limit.
How Big Is the Problem?
• In 2009 alone, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes, accounting for approximately 32% of all vehicular deaths in the United States.
• Of the 1,314 deaths involving children up to age 14, 14% involved an alcohol-impaired driver. About half of that 14% of children were riding with the impaired driver.
• Over 1.4 million drivers were arrested in 2009 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
• Drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine, are involved in roughly 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often combined with alcohol consumption.
Spotting Drunk Drivers
Rental car drivers can spot drunk drivers in a variety of ways. Although every case is different, most drunk drivers exhibit several actions consistent with drinking too much. Here's a few ways you can tell if you're watching a drunk driver:
• They take a wide turning radius
• Straddling the center of the road or lane marker
• Appearing to be drunk (i.e., eye fixation, face close to windshield, drinking in the vehicle)
• Almost striking an object or another vehicle
• Weaving or zigzagging across the road
• Driving on surfaces other than a designated roadway
• Swerving or abruptly turning away from a generally straight course
• Turning abruptly or illegally
• Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit
• Stopping without cause in a traffic lane
• Following others too closely
• Drifting or moving in a straight line
• Erratic braking
• Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
• Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions
• Slow response to traffic signals, including sudden stops and delayed starts
• Driving with headlights off
What Safety Steps Can You Take?
If your holiday socializing may involve alcohol, it's very important that you make plans so that you don't end up driving after you've been drinking. For example:
• Have a designated driver
• Don't let your friends drive impaired; take away their keys if you have to
• If you have been drinking, either get a ride home or call a taxi, or even consider sleeping at the location you've been drinking at (if possible)
• If hosting a gathering serving alcohol, remind your guests to plan ahead and have a designated driver, offer non-alcoholic beverages, and make sure everyone leaves only with a sober driver
Reacting to Drunk Drivers
It is very important that you react appropriately when you see a drunk driver. There are several steps you can take to ensure you react appropriately.
• Call 911 and tell them you wish to report a drunk driver. You do not have to give your name.
• Give the exact location of the vehicle, including the name of the road or cross-streets and the direction the vehicle is traveling.
• Give a complete description of the vehicle, such as make, model, color, and license plate.
• Describe the manner in which the vehicle is being driven.
• Do not follow or try to stop the car or detain the driver. Leave that to trained professionals.
• KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. The closer you are to a vehicle that is being operated by an intoxicated individual, the greater the danger is to you and your rental car.
Driving and driving is a deadly combination. As we approach the New Year, remember to stay safe and sober on the roadways, wherever your may be.
From all of us at Car Rental Express, we wish you a safe and prosperous New Year!