The next several months are the most dangerous time of the year on the road for young adults, primarily because of the drunk-driving risks surrounding spring break, graduation and the beginning of summer break. With April being Alcohol Awareness Month, our drunk driving accident attorneys in Irvine know it’s a prime time to get the message out about staying safe and sober behind the wheel.
The recent arrest of an 18-year-old woman suspected in the hit-and-run death of a 21-year-old Irvine cyclist is yet another tragic reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving. The Orange County Register reports the woman was driving a 2001 Toyota southbound on Santiago Canyon Road near Loma Ridge, when she made an unsafe turn at an unsafe speed and struck the cyclist. The California Highway Patrol reports the cyclist was declared dead at the scene. The suspect fled and was apprehended a short time later on suspicion of felony DUI and hit-and-run.
Nationwide, the final tally for 2012 found a drunk driver involved in one-third of all traffic fatalities, resulting in 10,322 deaths, according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. California drunk driving accidents accounted for 936 of the state’s 2,857 traffic fatalities that year. Only Texas reported more drunk driving deaths. Government reports continue to show teens and young adults at high risk. In 2012, for example, 758 drunk drivers who died in traffic accidents were between the ages of 16 and 20, while 1,539 were ages 21 to 24.
In fact, the California Office of Traffic Safety reports eight teens a day are killed in DUI crashes. Teens face a higher risk for an auto accident at all BAC levels, compared with older drivers. Teens account for 20 percent of those killed in alcohol-related crashes, despite accounting for just 6 percent of the licensed population. Alcohol involvement is highest at night – most often in collisions that occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. – and on weekends. Males are twice as likely as females to drive under the influence.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is highlighting its PowerTalk 21 program, noting that teens whose parents talk to them about the dangers of underage drinking are more than 80 percent less likely to drink. Just eight percent of teens in the study who said their parents thought it was completely unacceptable for “someone your age” to drink were active drinkers, compared to 47 percent of teens whose parents held more permissive views. The report also found teens who don’t drink until age 21 are 80 percent less likely to abuse alcohol or to become alcohol dependent later in life and about 70 percent less likely to drink and drive than those who begin drinking alcohol in their early teens.
Authorities advise parents to know who their teen will be with, where they are going and when they are expected to return. Consider entering into a teen-driving contract with your young driver, which outlines expectations and the consequences for unsafe driving.