We often look at the damage drunk drivers do in terms of themselves – they get killed and injured – and others. And impaired driving is responsible for some 10,000 deaths each year, and 290,000 injuries – that’s an injury every two minutes.
But the decision to drink and drive can cost us in other ways. Taxes are higher because law enforcement, the courts, and prisons come into play when people drive drunk. And there is the cost of property – not just cars, but road signs, guard rails, houses, and other structures that stand in the way of vehicles piloted by drunk drivers.
Light poles are a common target. In Winston-Salem recently some 2,300 people were de-electrified thanks to the decision of a motorist to get behind the wheel after drinking. And this type of crash is not as rare as you might think. A year ago in Clayton, a similar crash put a thousand homes in the dark.
There are costs to power outages beyond missing a TV show. Food gets spoiled. Some people lose money because they are unable to work, or their business premises are unable to function.
But people who aren’t swayed by the thought of injury and death – their own or someone else’s – aren’t going to worry about electric power for a neighborhood. That is why North Carolina will need to keep the pressure on drunk drivers through laws. One way it could reduce the chances of mishaps like this would be to enact a law requiring ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. Currently the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are only mandated for first offenses if the BAC is .15 or higher.
Repeat DWI offenders don’t think about the consequences of their actions, so we need to, through laws and technology that’s been proven to work. We can’t catch every NC drunk driver before he or she breaks the law, but we’re far from powerless.