Here's a sobering statistic: In 2008, 32 percent of all traffic accidents involved drunk drivers. Every 45 seconds marked the death of an American due to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the total number of deaths reached 11,773.
In an effort to add perspective, as well as mock society, the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan entered its tenth year. Angry protesters, in opposition to our evil regime, scream that American solders dying in battle accounts for too high a price, as one soldier's death is one too many. Combat fatalities in Afghanistan have reached 1,084.
I respect human life, and agree that it's a big number. However, it's increasingly obvious Americans tend to pay attention only to matters that concern their personal lives. The 1,084 casualties reported accounts for all 10 years of U.S. involvement.
I believe that life is to be cherished, not wasted, and I'm concerned about our soldier's lives. However, where are the champions of lives lost here? Where are the picket lines and shouting parents? The war in Afghanistan will have to carry on at the present rate for 100 years to equal 2008's DUI fatalities. We lost sense of ourselves somewhere along the line.
C'est la vie.
The good news is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that since the kick-off study, deaths dropped 44 percent. With such a precipitous drop, it seems that harsher laws combined with recent advertising efforts have paid off.
Unfortunately, the declining death toll is more likely a result of three societal changes:
- Enforcing mandatory seat belt use.
- Raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 in all 50 states.
- Increasing safety requirements.
Many public service announcements, advertising campaigns, and public relations efforts have targeted and warned our society to stop driving under the influence, with the mother of all campaigns being "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk." Created by the Ad Council, the effort publicized the idea of designated drivers.
The current campaign takes aim at a younger audience, advising young adults that "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving."
Other efforts augment these campaigns. Hosts who demand guests who drink leave their keys behind. Cab companies in some college towns allow bar patrons to ride home for a dollar. Larger cities with public transit provide free trips on the "heavy" drinking holidays, usually St. Patrick's Day and New Years Eve. (My understanding was that every holiday was booze day, especially Christmas.) Many groups staff "hotlines" during the holidays to "give back."
In Chicago, U Drink I Drive attacks the problem strategically and provides designated drivers with a creative twist. It allows a designated driver to take you home after a night of drinking. The twist? The driver uses your car to do the dirty work.
As an added-value service, the driver takes requests. Feel the need for White Castle? Let the driver know, and off you go. People traveling alone to meet others will feel safer having another person present in the parking garage. It's a happy ending for all.
They offer on-call service from Tuesday to Saturday, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Drivers try to arrive no later than 30 minutes after the call, and accept cash and all major credit cards. The cost is $35 for the first five miles and $3 for each additional mile. They also provide designated drivers on an hourly basis; corporate rates are available for multiple drivers leaving office parties and heading out to bars.
U Drink I Drive has one goal: to keep you, and your potential victims, safe from poor decisions. Someone has to; the stakes are way to high.