Drunk driving fatalities make up approximately one-third of all deaths related to traffic injuries. Those at the highest risk include young adults under age 24, motorcyclists, and those with prior convictions for driving under the influence. The cause of death in drunk driving fatalities depends on the type of injury. Trauma to the head, loss of blood from massive cuts, or damage to the internal organs can all occur during a traffic accident.
Alcohol remains in the blood until the liver processes it, which takes approximately one hour per one ounce (about 30ml) of alcohol consumed; in those with compromised livers, however, it can take much longer. A blood alcohol concentration test measures how much of a person’s current blood supply consists of alcohol. A reading of 0.08 percent, the point at which driving becomes illegal throughout much of the United States, means that the person’s blood contains one-eighth of one-percent alcohol. While this may not sound like much, it is enough to impair reaction time, which can result in drunk driving fatalities.
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The impact from a car crash can cause numerous different types of injuries. Head trauma, for instance, can occur from being struck by flying debris, or from hitting the steering wheel or other hard surfaces. Victims can go into hypovolemic shock, a condition that occurs when the body loses too much fluid — such as through blood loss — and the heart can no longer pump efficiently. If emergency personnel does not arrive in time to begin replacing the lost fluids, victims can die from blood loss. Injury to internal organs can be caused by both blunt-force trauma, such as the steering column striking the abdomen, and impalement, such as a sharp shard of glass piercing through the abdominal cavity into one of the organs.
Young adults are often at a higher risk for causing and suffering from drunk driving fatalities than older adults with the same amount of alcohol in their blood stream. There are numerous possible reasons for this, including lack of driving experience in younger adults versus older adults. Younger adults are also more likely to travel in groups, which increases the level of distraction while driving. Those with a prior history of driving drunk, as well as those who mixed other drugs or medications with alcohol, are also at a higher risk of causing an accident.
Most countries have laws regarding drinking and driving, although the legal definition of “drunk” varies. Certain countries, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, have a zero-tolerance policy, meaning it is illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in the blood. The 0.08 percent limit in the United States, Mexico, and a few other counties is the highest legal limit in the world.
Methods of preventing drunk driving fatalities include educating the public about the issue, setting up sobriety checkpoints along roads and highways, and imposing serious consequences, such as loss of license or jail time, for those who violate the law. Individuals can also help keep the roads safe by avoiding driving after consuming alcohol and preventing friends and family from driving while intoxicated.