Again this 2018 holiday season, more and more drivers of all ages are expected on the road. So, as we do each year, it’s time for our yearly column with updated stats on the dangers of drinking and driving as DUI arrests continue to be a major problem nationwide.
This is the saga of young Joe, a fun loving 24-year-old who is full of life, has lots of friends and is a good person. He loves to drive his 1969 Mustang Cobra Jet 428 whenever he can and since Joe lives in a warm climate state, taking his beauty out during the Christmas holiday is routine.
Joe could be your son, sibling, parent, friend or even your husband. He’s having a great time at a holiday party, joining in on all the fun. He’s had one drink too many, but still feels he’s OK to drive his Mustang home.
It’s 1:30 a.m. and Joe is heading home and thank goodness he’s alone. Joe is oblivious to the fact that on this night he’ll become one of the more than 34,500 estimated drivers that will die in car accidents in 2018. Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that 2017 highway fatality numbers were down following two consecutive years of large increases.
Further, estimates for the first six months of 2018 show that this downward trend continues through the end of the year.
“Safety is the Department’s number one priority,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “The good news is that fatalities are trending downward after increasing for the two previous years. But, the tragic news is that 37,133 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 (a two-percent decrease from 2016). All of us need to work together to reduce fatalities on the roads.”
NHTSA statistical projections of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2018 show that an estimated 17,120 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents a decrease of about 3.1 percent compared to 17,664 fatalities that were reported the first half of 2017. Still, even though the troubling stats are down a bit, they are still alarming, especially considering the modern day car air bag and truck safety enhancements that Joe’s car does not have.
Back to Joe.
Joe is not aware he is speeding at 65 mph and approaching a curve in the highway that should be taken at 35 mph. His reactions, meanwhile, have been diminished by his alcohol consumption. His cell phone starts to ring, making for more distraction.
Joe is going too fast to make the curve. To make matters even worse, he also forgot to buckle his seatbelt when he left the party. Before Joe even knows what is happening, his car is off the road and headed directly toward a huge tree.
There is no correcting. Joe’s Mustang hits the tree with a resounding crunch.
At 1/10th of a second, the car’s front bumper and grillwork collapse.
At 2/10ths of a second, the hood crumbles, rises, and smashes into the windshield. The grillwork now disintegrates.
At 3/10ths of a second, Joe is sprung upright from his seat. His legs are immediately broken, and his knees crash against the dashboard. The steering wheel bends under his grip.
At 4/10ths of a second, the front of the car is completely destroyed and is now completely still. However, the rear end of the car is still traveling at 55 mph, and the 750-pound Cobra Jet 428 V8 engine and accessories are crunched into the tree.
At 5/10ths of a second, the impact rips Joe’s shoes clean off his feet. The Mustang’s chassis bends in the middle, and Joe’s head is slammed into the windshield. The car’s rear-end begins its downward fall as the spinning wheels churn into the ground.
At 6/10ths of a second, the entire body of the Mustang is twisted out of shape while the front bucket seat continues to ram forward.
At 7/10ths of a second, Joe’s chest is pinned against the steering wheel shaft. His internal organs crash against his rib cage.
At 8/10ths of a second, Joe is dead. He’s now a statistic.
Notable is that Joe’s fatality will be recorded in the 25-percent group of impaired driving fatalities that occur between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.
If you plan to host a party this holiday season or a gathering for the New Year, remember that you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you serve alcohol to ends up in a crash. Please make sure all of your alcohol consumption guests designate sober drivers in advance, or help them arrange alternate transportation. Have phone numbers for a taxi cab or Uber/Lyft drivers available; and finally, have everyone put their keys into a large bowl when entering the party and then refuse to give keys back to intoxicated guests.
Remember it’s not just young drivers like Joe who die on our nation’s highways. Many adult drivers become statistics from similar alcohol induced or distracted driving mistakes. Plan your travel carefully this holiday season, and never be in a hurry. If roads turn nasty, pull off safely at a roadside rest stop or have a coffee at restaurant.
Finally, if you must stop your vehicle to rest, never pull off and stop on the freeway shoulder or side of a road - it’s dangerous sitting there as the odds of being struck by an oncoming vehicle is very high.
Keep in mind that more deaths per mile traveled occur during holiday season.
Have a safe 2018 Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, et al., and overall blessed holiday season.
Next week, we’ll look at distracted driving in all its forms and why driver phone texting/distraction continues to be a driving nightmare with the latest statistics.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com.