In New Jersey and states across the country, the focus this month is on keeping drivers safe and sober as they transition from summer into the new school year. Through a campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” $45,000 is being invested in increased police patrols on the streets, including DUI checkpoints, to identify drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and get them off the road before they harm themselves and others.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 people die every year in car accidents caused by substance abuse in the United States, and more than a million drivers are arrested for being under the influence while behind the wheel. As of 2015, in New Jersey, about 30 percent of deaths caused by car accidents were related to alcohol use.
The negative impact of driving under the influence is felt far and wide, and New Jersey has not been immune. More than 1,800 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in New Jersey between 2003 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
As we gear up for October, the focus continues to be on saving lives on the road – not just of drivers and passengers but the lives of pedestrians and bike cyclists as well. October 10th is Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day, an awareness campaign designed to have at least one day where not one single person dies on the roads in New Jersey.
What can you do to help New Jersey hit the goal?
When you know the stark truth about what is happening on the roads, you will be in a far better position to educate others and make positive choices for yourself.
- Buzzed driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. That is, having a couple glasses of wine, a few beers, or drinking any amount that causes you to feel less than 100 percent present, awake, and aware can cause a deadly accident, just like drunk driving can.
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test to determine blood alcohol content levels does not mean you walk away without consequences. To the contrary, it means at a minimum a “1st offense” citation that translates into a $300-$500 fine plus a license suspension of at least seven months.
- Drugged driving is as dangerous as drunk driving and buzzed driving. Smoking marijuana or using any illicit substance that slows your response time or otherwise impairs your driving ability can lead to an accident. Though there are not breathalyzer-style tests for all substances, it is still possible to get a DWI charge for using other substances if you are under the influence when you are pulled over.
- Legal substances can cause you to be unable to drive safely as well. Prescription painkillers or sedatives and even some over-the-counter cold medications can cause you to get a DWI if you are unable to safely drive your vehicle while taking the medications.
Spread the Word
When you have a clear understanding of what it means to drive while intoxicated, and what the consequences and risks are of making this choice, share what you know. You can:
- Step in if a friend is under the influence and unable to drive, and offer to drive them home or contact Lyft for them.
- Avoid riding in the car with someone who is under the influence.
- Share stats or relevant news pieces on social media.
- Share your story if you have been involved in or impacted by loss as a result of a drugged or drunk driving accident.
If you are regularly driving while under the influence, it is a huge red flag that treatment is needed. No excuse or reasoning can adequately justify taking this risk, and if it is a behavior you are unable to curb on your own, it is time to get help. The good news is that there are a number of different levels of care available that can “meet you where you are” right now in terms of your readiness to put drug and alcohol use in the past. The sooner you help yourself to feel stronger and make safe choices, the sooner you will be able to help others who may be endangering their lives as well as the lives of others on New Jersey roads.