In 2016, 933 people died on Missouri roadways due to automobile crashes and automobile accidents. In a recent blog I discussed how the numbers of traffic fatalities have rose sharply over the past several years and 2016 was no different. Unfortunately, there were sixty-six (66) more road fatalities in 2016 than there were in 2015. Even though that may not seem like a major leap, consider that there were nearly 170 more traffic fatalities on Missouri roads in 2016 than in 2014!
The numbers are rising and there are things we can all do to help. We already know about the dangers of distracted driving discussed in blog entry from a few months ago. Another major area of concern and contributor to Missouri traffic accidents and traffic collisions are those involving individuals who are driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (also known as “DUI/DWI”). According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one in three traffic deaths involve a drunk driver. During a ten year period, the CDC discovered that 3,314 people were killed in Missouri crashes when they involved a drunk driver.
What Can Be Done?
Many people believe that merely having a few drinks then getting behind the wheel is safe, but consider that the legal limit in Missouri is .08% BAC. For anyone under the age of 21, the legal limit is .02%. Considering that it only takes a few drinks to get to these levels (and in some cases a single drink), everyone should appreciate the consequences of a DWI/DUI conviction and whether it’s worth the risk to get behind the wheel after drinking. Under Missouri law, as discussed in this blog, a DWI/DUI conviction can have long lasting effects.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Taylor Petras from KMIZ (ABC 17) to discuss the consequences of a DWI/DUI conviction. As I explained in that interview, a first time DWI/DUI conviction in Missouri can potentially cost between $5,000 to $10,000, can lead to negative, lifelong consequences for someone’s ability to gain employment, and can lead to a permanent conviction on someone’s record. In most cases a DWI/DUI offender is required to attend classes, obtain special types of insurance, and some offenders are even required to put an ignition interlock on their car. If you are involved in a wreck and are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then it’s possible that you may also face felony assault, manslaughter, or even murder charges. It’s just not worth it!
Businesses and their employees may also have some legal responsibility for serving individuals alcohol and allowing them to drive. Missouri law permits individuals to sue a “person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor…when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.” Employees of these businesses should know that they cannot be fired by their employer for refusing to serve a visibility intoxicated person!
We can all force ourselves to plan ahead, take the keys from a drunk friend, or refuse to serve a drunk patron at the bar. Each of us have the power to change the numbers and drive down the number of driving while intoxicated fatalities.
We Can Make Our Roads Safer!
Whether it’s distracted driving, driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated, we all have safe choices to make to avoid automobile accidents and automobile crashes. As I stated in the KMIZ story on driving while intoxicated, there is no reason to drive while intoxicated when all someone has to do is push an app or call a taxi to get home. Most Missouri cities offer Uber and multiple taxi services, and some cities have now started offering free rides from police on major holidays. Our firm even offers a taxi giveaway every New Year’s Eve to help Columbia residents get home safe.
Recently, Jefferson City announced it would offer free citywide Uber rides on Inauguration Day. Fortunately, everyone is getting on board with the idea that we can all help to reduce traffic fatalities involving drunk drivers. Whether it’s New Year’s, or any day of the week, there are numerous opportunities for everyone to avoid getting behind of the wheel after they’ve had too much to drink! Take advantage of these opportunities and always consider the real and human costs involved with driving while intoxicated.