This article is part of the #STCPreventionMatters campaign from the University of Maryland Medical Center. For more information about the campaign and the Center for Injury Prevention and Policy, visit: www.umm.edu/PreventionMatters
Every day, law enforcement officers and emergency personnel rush to the scene of tragic vehicle crashes. Often, the people involved in the motor vehicle crashes end up at Shock Trauma. Here we treat the most severe and life-threatening injuries in the state; 37 percent of which are caused by a motor vehicle crash. Each crash is unique— each cause and outcome is different.
In 2016, 37,461 people were killed in vehicle crashes, and nearly one-third of those fatalities (10,497) were due to drunk driving. Those numbers remain similar year after year. Even with the knowledge that drunk driving is criminal behavior (not to mention deadly) in all 50 States and Washington, D.C., people continue to drink and drive. Even after numerous DUIs, data shows some people continue this frightening behavior.
Drinking and driving is a choice, and it is a choice that should not be made.
Every month, our Shock Trauma nurses present on the consequences of drinking and driving for the Adult Court Ordered Drinking Driver Monitor Program. The vast majority of the people that attend are first time offenders and it is the nurses’ goal to convince attendees to never drink and drive again. They would rather people not drink and drive in the first place.
At Shock Trauma, we firmly believe that most trauma, is preventable and death and injury resulting from drinking and driving is no exception. As a trauma surgeon, I have seen a single mistake ruin six or seven lives, even when the patient survives their injuries.
Patients can break bones, suffer from traumatic brain injuries, and even lose an arm or a leg after a crash. Some never recover. The person who made the rash decision put so many at risk. Few people knowingly decide to DRIVE DRUNK. Instead, people tend to underestimate how impacted they are by the alcohol they consume. Remember, any amount of drinking and driving is dangerous and impairment begins with the very first sip.
The decision to not drink and drive should never be a tough one. Drunk driving is illegal, but it’s also deadly— to the driver, to his or her passengers and to other road users. If you cannot control your own behavior, a law enforcement officer will. They will be out on high alert, seeking out drunk drivers during the holiday period, showing zero tolerance for anyone driving drunk. If they find you driving drunk, you will be arrested— no excuses!
This news should not come as a surprise; everyone knows it is against the law to drink and drive. Alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions, causing you to make bad decisions you would not otherwise make. Do not trust yourself when you drink.
This Labor Day holiday, a time of year when drunk-driving fatalities and injuries surge, local law enforcement will be out in full force in support of the 2018 Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. Between August 17 and September 3, 2018, law enforcement officers will team up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to participate in high-visibility exercises, pulling over and arresting drunk drivers. Save a life— do not make the tragic choice to drink and drive.
Laura Buchanan, MD is an assistant professor of trauma and surgical critical care at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a trauma surgeon at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.