Today is Memorial Day, when we honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The presidential proclamation for the commemoration emphasizes the meaning behind the holiday:
Memorial Day is our nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free. It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our nation. On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.
Memorial Day is also a time to remember the fallen at the hands of drunk and drugged drivers – DUI/DWI/OWI and DUIDs. Car accidents kill more people than wars do, except for the Civil War where 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in battle. Every 53 minutes in America someone is killed in a drunk driving crash – that amounts to 28 people who die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol with annual costs of alcohol-related crashes totalling more than $44 billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give us more somber facts to contemplate as we celebrate the official kickoff of summer:
- In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
- Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
- In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
- Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
- Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
- Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.
Law enforcement around the country are targeting drunk and drugged drivers on this first holiday weekend of the summer driving season, and local police, sheriffs and highway patrol officers are on full alert. So if you celebrate Memorial Day by getting drunk or high, please don’t get behind the wheel. There are so many ways to get home safe – call a taxi, get a sober friend or family member to drive you home, schedule a ride-share service, or crash on the sofa.