Distracted and impaired driving lead to otherwise easily preventable tragedies

Sarah Romans and Julia Hansen

When drivers choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or drive distracted (i.e. use a cell phone), they not only endanger themselves, but others around them as well. Texting and driving, and driving high are no less dangerous than driving drunk, despite common misconceptions. Thousands of drivers, passengers, and innocent people are killed every year in accidents that are completely avoidable.

Driving under the influence or distracted impairs everyone.”

— SADD Co-Presidents, seniors Sarah Romans and Julia Hansen

The statistics are alarming. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), every two minutes in the United States, someone is injured due to an accident caused by drunk driving. Every day, 28 people die as a result of these crashes in America. Driving under the influence of drugs like marijuana can be disastrous as well. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2013, 9.9 million (about 3.8%) adults and adolescents reported driving under the influence of drugs. In 2009, 18% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least on illicit, over-the-counter, or prescription drug. While many people think that texting and driving is not as harmful as driving under the influence, statistics have shown otherwise. According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, in 2011, 23% of auto collisions involved the use of cellphones. Just glancing at your phone while driving on the highway means that you will drive the length of a full football field before looking up again. Texting while driving, the most common form of distracted driving, makes a crash up to 23 times more likely. Clearly, evidence supports the assertions that drinking while driving, driving high, or driving distracted are fatal decisions. Furthermore, when people choose to combine drugs, alcohol, and cell phones, they exponentially increase the chance of injuring or killing themselves and others.

It is important not to underestimate the risks or overestimate your own abilities. Driving under the influence or distracted impairs everyone. Drugs and alcohol specifically inhibit neurotransmitters in the brain, slowing one’s reaction time. Thought, speech, balance, motor skills, and decision-making are all impacted. Alcohol and drugs like marijuana also increase the amount of dopamine that the brain releases, changing the risk-reward dynamic. A person who is drunk or high therefore perceives less risk and more reward resulting from their decisions, making them more likely to drive under the influence, even if they know that it’s wrong or dangerous.

SADD encourages students to look out for each other and have difficult conversations with their friends and family in order to prevent bad decisions regarding driving from being made. We look forward to discussing these issues with the student body during SADD week on the week of Apr. 13.