We’ve written before about the serious toll that drunk driving takes on SC drivers, families and communities. We’ve also written about how potential flaws in SC drunk driving laws may be keeping dangerous drivers on the road.
Now, a study by doctors in New Mexico may have found medical reasons why early action is the key to stopping drivers who struggle with alcohol from killing or injuring others. According to a recent report about the study, drivers convicted of drunk driving are likely to have a long history of alcohol and drug abuse.
Researchers interviewed 700 adults convicted of drunk driving and found that half of them were either long-term heavy drinkers or had a pattern of falling in and out of heavy drinking. In addition to heavy drinking, as much as one-third of the people interviewed fit the definitions for alcohol or drug dependence, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Study leader Dr. Sandra C. Lapham said that the results show that drunk driving is “a red flag,” and added, “It’s an opportunity to intervene.” Though many courts require people convicted of drunk driving to get screened for conditions like drug addiction or alcoholism, the screening can often fail to catch people who misjudge (or lie about) how much or how often they drink.
As Dr. Lapham noted, it’s often the people facing a drunk driving sentence that pay for the screenings, and because of this they may be motivated to underestimate any risky behavior. Dr. Lapham also said that even drunk drivers who aren’t trying to hide anything aren’t aware of how dangerous their drinking really is. On top of this, even people who may be ready to face their alcohol, drug or mental problems may not be able to afford treatment. Some insurance companies may make the problem worse by limiting the amount of treatment time they cover to a level that doesn’t allow these at-risk drivers to fully recover.
The study’s findings should signal an alarm for SC drivers and communities. As a recent article in The State shows, a combination of drunk drivers and weak drunk driving laws may be responsible for many of the increased deaths on our roads this year. What Dr. Lapham and her team found is that identifying drunk drivers as an “at-risk” population and getting them into treatment early on may be the most important way to stop later deaths and accidents.
Until then, being aware of the dangers of drunk driving and taking strong action when you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a drunk driver may be the only ways to keep you and your family safe.