Same drunken rut

Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2002

Over the past few weeks, Juneau has experienced a rash of incidents due to drunken driving. This past year we lost 43 Alaskans to this preventable tragedy. Unfortunately we seem to be stuck in the same rut, hoping it doesn't happen to someone we know and assuming it won't happen to us.

We can't expect law enforcement to protect us when one out of six Alaskans on any given weekend evening is impaired behind the wheel. Drinkers become "impaired" long before they might engage in stereotypical behaviors such as shedding clothing in public places or falling on the dance floor. Many people may appear to be sober and fit to drive when in reality they are not and it only becomes apparent once they are behind the wheel.

When alcohol hits the bloodstream, various abilities such as braking and steering are affected enough to make a difference between safe driving and dangerous driving. Many people think it's only the highly intoxicated drivers who cause our fatalities but that's not true. Last year in our nation more than 300 people died when the driver had a blood alcohol content of "only" .04 and almost 500 died when the driver had a BAC of .08.

In 2001, Americans felt the impact when 80 percent of the 14,706 drivers in fatal crashes were impaired. That's 11,802 deaths - more than the combined population of Haines, Sitka and Skagway

This holiday season make it a habit to not drink and drive, to never get into a car with someone who's been drinking. Know you are doing the right thing when you take away car keys from someone who's impaired. It's not just his life you might be saving, it's the co-worker of your cousin, a 5-year-old on the bus in front of you yesterday, it's a person you might not know but who is loved by many.

Cindy Cashen

MADD Juneau Chapter

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