Monday Medical: Myths about drinking and driving |

Monday Medical: Myths about drinking and driving

Tom Traynor

Here are just a few interesting statistics and popular myths about the behavior of drinking and driving, also called driving under the influence.

It is true that, nationally, less than 1 percent of the driving population is ever arrested for DUI. Nationwide, one driver in 122 will get a DUI. In Steamboat Springs, the frequency of DUI arrest is just about the same, and has rarely exceeded 2 percent.

Thus, it is a myth that “lots of people get one” and “you are not a local until you do.”

It is true that the average blood alcohol content for a DUI arrest nationwide is .21 percent. A 160-pound person, drinking for three hours, would need to consume 12 standard alcohol beverages to reach this level of intoxication. Not a few. Not six, or eight. A dozen.

Thus, it is a myth that the average person arrested for DUI has just “had a few.” He or she has had a dozen, which, interestingly, is the number of standard alcohol beverages a responsible drinker drinks in one week. Not three hours; one week.

“Yep, honey, I just stopped off on the way home from work and had a dozen.”

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Sounds a little different when we talk about it that way, doesn’t it? Then add, “Oh, yeah, and I was 385 times more likely to kill someone than a sober driver,” and it really starts to sound interesting.

It is true that if a 160-pound person had four standard alcoholic beverages in three hours, their blood alcohol content would measure just below .03 percent.

It is true that intoxicated drivers kill more people every year than all other forms of violent crimes combined. The national DUI death toll has wavered between 16,000 and 17,000 each year for many years now.

It also is true that frequently, the intoxicated driver who kills has been arrested, convicted and treated for DUI twice previously.

Yes, many of our deadly DUI drivers have been arrested, convicted and treated twice previously for this crime. It also is true that more than 2 million drivers have three or more prior DUI arrests and that 400,000 have five or more prior DUI arrests.

We should regard these people as the most deadly group in our society. They are more likely to go on to kill us than any other identifiable subgroup of our population.

During the 10 years of war in Vietnam, intoxicated drivers killed five times more Americans than were killed in combat. DUI drivers have killed 16 times more Americans than have been killed in the Iraq war.

Yes, they are killing us five to 16 times faster than wars have.

It is true that at a BAC of .15 percent, a person is 385 times more likely to cause a fatal automobile accident than is a sober driver. And, of all the people arrested for DUI each year, only 18 percent of them have a BAC under .15 percent.

Thus, it is a myth that the average DUI is a social drinker who is “just a victim of a cop’s quota.” In reality, intoxicated drivers are likely to be repeat offenders who are deadly to us all.

By the way, about that “quota” that is commonly talked about: DUI is one of the most under-enforced crimes known. It is estimated that for every DUI arrest, there are 1,200 non-apprehended deadly drunk drivers who won’t get stopped.

Most importantly, it is a complete myth that we can’t stop this deadly, immature, criminal behavior in our society. We can. We simply have to demand that the DUI laws be vigorously enforced. And we must take the attitude that drinking and driving is socially intolerable.

It is past time that we don’t put up with it anymore. DUI offenders should hear this from everyone they encounter. Repeatedly.

What they should never hear is, “Now you’re a local, and you are a victim of a quota.”