Why is Driving Under the Influence So Dangerous?

We all know that driving under the influence is dangerous, but most people don’t know exactly why. Alcohol is a depressant. It causes a person’s central nervous system to slow down. This slowing impairs “psychomotor”, or reaction skills, and “cognitive”, or thought-processing skills. These impairments distract from the business at hand—driving. These are proven facts. Even blood alcohol levels as low as .02% (well below the legal limit) can impact an individual’s capacity to reason and focus.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 10,322 people died in drunken driving crashes in 2012. This is 31% of all traffic deaths that year. And 1,174 of those deaths involved persons under the age of 21. This is more than three young people dying each day.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20-year-olds in the United States. Among 15 to 20-year-old drivers killed in a fatal accident, 32% of these drivers had been drinking and 26% had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above.

Every two minutes, a person is injured in an accident involving a drinking driver. The cost of drinking and driving is $199 billion a year.

Consider these impacts:

  • Costs derived from drunken driving are not just limited to those directly involved in the accident. The lives of entire families, friends, and co-workers are impacted by the death or injury of persons involved in DUI-related crashes. Financial, emotional, and psychological damages are only the beginning of what they experience.
  • Loss of income and work hours can have a grave impact on employers and businesses.
  • First responders – police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, medical personnel who experience the carnage that can occur after an accident involving a driver under the influence – are affected.
  • Each day, every county courthouse in California will have at least one department filled with people accused of driving under the influence. The cost to the criminal justice system is enormous.

The costs — in both lives and money, caused by drinking and driving — can be catastrophic. It is not difficult to understand, both legally and morally, why driving under the influence is illegal. The people involved in the justice system – the police, judges, district attorneys, and probation officers – all know the facts. If you understand that these officials have witnessed many DUI situations, you will begin to understand why the system works the way it does.


  1. http://www.duifoundation.org/drunkdriving/impairment/operating/
  2. www.responsibility.org
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts “Young Drivers,” 2013
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010. “National Traffic Safety Administration, 2014, DOT HS 812 013. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812013.pdf