In 1997, 16,189 Americans were killed by alcohol-related crashes, accounting for nearly half of all traffic fatalities. That's another person killed every 32 minutes. Let that sink in. But those are just casualties. An additional 327,000 Americans were injured in crashes in which alcohol was involved -- roughly one person every other minute.
The people killed and injured in these crashes came from every social, racial, and economic background. They were our friends, our schoolmates, our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles. They were children, teenagers, and adults. They were not just numbers.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is underestimated again and again. Drinking alcohol and driving are both activities that Americans do so routinely, few contemplate the consequences of getting in a car drunk. So this is the problem: drunk driving is the nation's most frequently committed violent crime.
But there is more to driving under the influence than just driving under the influence of alcohol. What many people fail to realize is that alcohol is not the only drug that affects driving skills. Education stresses alcohol so much, people don't realize that even simple, over-the-counter decongestants can affect driving skills -- not to mention illegal drugs.
The problem is, people are dying. And perhaps if they had known better, they wouldn't have gotten into that car, or had those last couple drinks. Or they would have had a designated driver. People need to know before they can act. They need to know the dangers of driving under the influence.