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Tuesday, July 05, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Ruining One Life and Saving Another


While I was staying at a friend's house last weekend, one of his roommates stumbled into his room. When I asked him how he got home, he - still staggering - said, "I drove."

He was obviously intoxicated and should not have driven himself anywhere. But he did - as do hundreds of other college students after a few games of beer pong or throwing back a couple while watching the game.

According to my friend, this roommate routinely comes home drunk after a long night of partying, having driven himself home. My friend was beginning to wonder if next time he should call the police. We began to weigh the pros and cons.

On the positive side, we would potentially be saving lives. We wouldn't want to be on the road with a drunk driver, nor do we want our friends to be in danger of getting into an accident with one. Also, if he were reprimanded for his actions, maybe he would realize it wasn't worth the risk he took every time he got behind the wheel drunk.

On the other hand, what if our friend were arrested and had to carry a record around with him his whole life? Would it be worth it to potentially ruin his life?

I said yes. My friend said no.

According to an article by former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, there were 41,471 traffic fatalities in the United States in 1998. Nearly 16,000 of those were alcohol related. In New York State, there were 365 alcohol related car accidents in 1998 - an average of one per day.

In response to these staggering numbers, Giuliani instituted a policy of confiscating cars of those convicted of drunk driving in February 1999. According to Giuliani, "This policy not only takes lethal weapons off the road, it also works as a highly effective deterrent against potential drunk drivers."

This aggressive policy has its fans and its critics, of course, but few other solutions have shown such drastic effects. Through 2002, the New York City Police Department confiscated 1,200 cars under the law.

This policy is particularly effective, because, according to Herb Simpson, president of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 75 percent of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive. Therefore, taking away a drunk driver's license is ineffective.

To date, 37 states have passed "zero-tolerance" laws that call for immediate suspension of a driver's license if the driver is under age 21 and has even the slightest trace of alcohol in his or her system. This does nothing, however, for the driver who is of legal drinking age. In these 37 states, there has been a reduction of one-fifth in the rate of drunk-driving fatalities. While any reduction is a success, I would hardly call one-fifth significant enough.

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In Canada, vehicles belonging to drunk drivers are impounded for up to two months. Results have shown a 12 percent decrease in fatalities and a 50 percent decrease in "drinking under the influence" offenses. Also, there was a significant decrease - 27 percent - in repeat offenders. Similar programs have been instituted in California, Ohio and Minnesota, according to Simpson.

Statistics, no matter how daunting or sobering, will never be a true deterrent to college-aged students looking for a good time. But that doesn't mean you have to experience for yourself the life-changing aftermath of a drunk-driving accident.

We all should take these statistics and see if they apply to ourselves, or our friends, and see what we can do to reduce the number of senseless fatalities each year, because it is not fair to the innocent drivers to be killed by a drunk driver's negligence.





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