An aggrieved, and angry, brouhaha occurred in the Twittersphere in the past few days after film critic Roger Ebert commented on MTV “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn’s death in a car accident in Pennsylvania on Monday — in which his car went over a guardrail and burst into flames; passenger Zachary Hartwell also died — by writing “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.” Ebert has since apologized, the LA Times reports. While it could be weeks before toxicology results are made public, it’s well to say for the gazillionth time, drinking and driving are not a good idea.
A 2010 report by theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that one in five people 16 or older drive within two hours of drinking. A new study in the journal Addiction has found that no amount of alcohol — not the US’s blood-alcohol content (BAC ) of 0.08 — seems to be safe for driving.
University of California, San Diego sociologist David Phillips looked at official data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which contains information on the 1,495,667 people involved in fatal car accidents in the years 1994 to 2008. The database covers all counties, days of the week, times of day and, as Science Daily says, “perhaps most important, reports on blood-alcohol content in increments of 0.01.” More from Science Daily:
“Accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detectable in a driver’s blood,” Phillips said. Even with a BAC of 0.01, Phillips and Brewer write, there are 4.33 serious injuries for every non-serious injury versus 3.17 for sober drivers.
There are at least three mechanisms that help to explain this finding, Phillips said: “Compared with sober drivers, buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity.”
There also seems to be a strong “dose-response” relationship between all these factors, the authors write: The greater the blood-alcohol content, the greater the average speed of the driver and the greater the severity of the accident, for example.
Needless to say, these are sobering findings but they bear repeating, especially with the start of summer and school out — and with teenagers’ mistaken (not that you can tell them that) belief that they’re invincible. (My son is a teenager and he’s disabled, but he’s just like any other teenage boy in thinking he can do anything and be just fine, what’s your problem, Mom?.)
Just a few days ago I wrote about Austin Whitney, who graduated from UC Berkeley on May 14 and was able to walk across the stage thanks to a robotic device. Whitney was paralyzed in a car accident just after his high school graduation; he had been, as he says, drinking and driving.
Drinking and driving –unsafe at any speed — yes. Drinking then driving — not a good idea, period.
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Photo by rob_rob2001.