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The blinking red hand on the crosswalk appeared and she stopped just across the street from her high school. As she exhaled her breath made little white puffs in the cold, morning air. At the same intersection, a car was quickly approaching. The walk signal appeared for the 17-year-old as he sped through the red light. A few feet forward and she would’ve been safe. But she started walking, unaware of the danger rushing toward her. February 20, 2019, would be the last time the junior would ever walk to school, because of one drunk driver.
Too Many Funerals
Unfortunately, this student’s story is one of many. According to the National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration (NHSTA), the main cause of death in teens is car crashes. One-quarter of these crashes involve an underage drunk driver. Juniviles are not only a victim of drunk driving, but they may also be the cause. In 2017, NHSTA found that among all the children (14 and under) killed in some kind of motor vehicle accident, almost 20% of the accidents were drunk-driving accidents. As stated by NHSTA, “54% of the time, it was the child’s own driver who was drunk.” Not only is driving after drinking very dangerous and could lead to injuries or death, but it is also a crime. Teens are the most at risk for this kind of behavior, and a criminal record could destroy their chances of a future, if they’re still alive. Therefore, to prevent more funerals, teens should be more educated about drinking and driving.
Celebrate! But With Caution
As most people know the legal drinking age is 21, and the young adults often celebrate their birthday by drinking alcohol for the first time. Although this is usually a happy occasion, alcohol should be handled with caution especially around vehicles. DUI or Driving Under the Influence are issued to people found driving intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher can legally be arrested. Drinking and driving are especially dangerous because it affects your ability to think correctly and make logical and rational decisions states one high schooler who is currently in Drivers Ed. The alcohol makes reaction time slower, she says, and also causes people to be sluggish.
Is 21 Too Young
Car crashes are the leading cause of death in teens. In order to prevent some of these deaths, all US States have adopted the legal drinking age as 21. This small change has saved many lives. “NHSTA estimates that minimum-drinking-age laws have saved 31,959 lives from 1975 to 2017.” Although it helps, more has to be done. According to NHSTA in 2017 the highest percentage of drunk drivers were 21-24-year-olds. Following them at 26% were 25-34-year-olds. More changes should be put in place to protect these young adults. But the legal drinking age has been 21 for over three decades and people might react poorly. Perhaps if young people were educated at three stages of their life, middle school, high school when they’re learning to drive, and then at 21 when they are legally allowed to drink, there wouldn’t be so many funerals.
Sometimes the teens aren’t always behind the wheel, sometimes they might just be unwilling victims of an accident. NHSTA states that “220 children 14 and under were killed in a drunk-driving crash in 2017.” Those 220 kids include drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. At some schools, the students go through a program called SOS, for suicide prevention that instructs them what to do if they see someone who is showing signs of suicide and depression. Would the number of deaths decrease if there was such a program for drunk driving? It could instruct teens on what to do if they are being pressured into drinking, how to stop someone who is trying to drink and drive and how to protect them from themselves, and what to do in an instance where they are an unwilling passenger or innocent pedestrian. Could a program like this that is embedded in the school curriculum save someone’s life?
How To Save A Life
Drunk driving kills people and a simple way to save a life is to just be responsible. NHSTA recommends 5 easy ways to prevent an accident.
“1) Plan your safe ride home before you start the party, choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver.
2) If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
3) If you drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, a ride-hailing service, or a sober friend.
4) If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
5) Always wear your seat belt--it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.”
The 5th way could be crucial for a student or teen in a dangerous situation that they can’t stop. They could learn this information at school and go out and possibly save someone’s life with this knowledge. Sometimes drunk driving accidents are glossed over because they occur so often, but the opposite should be true. The more accidents there are the more people should be informed and especially teens who are most at risk and then it will be instilled in them from an early age.
- Baca, Stacey, and Cauguiran, Cate. 'Naperville man pleads not guilty to DUI, homicide charges in death of Downers Grove North student Beth Dunlap.' ABC7 Chicago. 15 Mar. 2019. Web. 3 Oct. 2019.
- NHSTA. 'Drunk Driving.' Drunk Driving, NHTSA, 4 Oct. 2016, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving#nhtsa-action. Accessed 3 Oct. 2019.
- Partnership News Service Staff. 'Experts Warn About Dangers of Holiday Drinking and Driving.' Where Families Find Answers on Substance Use | Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2019.
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