Sample Paper on Impact of Impaired Driving on Society

Impact of Impaired Driving on Society


Impaired driving refers to the act of operating or taking control of a motor vehicle on a highway while under the influence of drugs or in a condition to the degree that motor and mental skill are compromised. One is considered driving while impaired if he/she drives a car after consuming legally excessive amounts of alcohol and stimulant drugs. Conditions that can lead to impaired driving include sleepiness, distractions (for example when a driver uses a cell phone) or suffering from a medical condition that affects driving. The national highway and traffic safety administration (NHTSA) has implemented a tough stance against impaired driving. However, this has not discouraged the practice. This paper will discuss the effect of impaired driving on the American society.

Impact of Impaired Driving

Each year, the United States loses thousands of people as a result of impaired driving. As it had been noted earlier, impaired driving involves taking the control of a motor vehicle when the mental and motor skills are compromised. Consequently, the driver has extremely high chances of making wrong judgments while on the highway. The NHTSA reports that even though the number of deaths caused by impaired driving has not been increasing since the early eighties, the figures are still high. For instance, there were 10,228 fatalities caused by alcohol impaired driving accidents in 2010 alone. This accounted for 32% of the total number of traffic fatalities during that year (Fell et al., 2013). The total number of deaths resulting from impaired driving could be much higher if other drugs and conditions are considered. The minimum legal drinking age in the United States is 21. Therefore, if we assume that a majority of people killed in these types of accidents are legal drinkers, it can be concluded that the country is losing productive citizens. Many people are losing their parents, relatives, breadwinners and friends due to impaired driving.

The United States has made some progress in reducing impaired driving fatalities over the decades. For example, in 1982, the percentage of alcohol impaired drivers who were involved in traffic fatalities was 35%. In 2009, the figure had reduced to 22%. However, the NHTSA is concerned by the fact that the percentage of drunk drivers involved in deadly accidents has remained stagnant at between 21 and 22% since 1997. The most affected state is Montana, which has recorded a 35% average over the past five years. The least affected state is Utah, which has a lowly 12%. Looking at the trend over the past two decades, the number of deaths caused by impaired drivers will remain high in the near future (Fell et al., 2013).

Apart from leading to deaths, impaired driving causes hundreds of thousands of injuries each year. For example, in 2009, the NHTSA reports that about 200,000 people were injured in accidents involving an impaired driver. This is a huge cost to the society since these injured people have to seek medical attention to prevent their situations from worsening or even to prevent a potential death. It is estimated that impaired driving accidents of all severities cost the US society at least $51 billion (in year 2000 dollars) each year (Fell et al., 2013). This is such a heavy price to pay for accidents that can be avoided. Taking into account costs related to motor vehicle repairs, legal proceedings, insurance and specialized attention for the severely injured, the cost of impaired driving may run into hundreds of billions of dollars. With many citizens struggling to make ends meet owing to the tough economic conditions, these are extremely high costs for the society.

The United States has been compelled into spending billions of dollars each year to deal with impaired driving. A number of enforcement approaches have been instituted to deter, detect and arrest motorists who drive while impaired. The most widely used approach is the introduction of special patrols by law enforcement officers to arrest impaired drivers. The effectiveness of this approach has meant that such patrols have become common. Normally, this brings together a significantly high number of officers. In some cases, they are drawn from a number of jurisdictions. The society, which forms the largest base of tax payers, is essentially the financier of these patrols since they have to pay fuel for the patrol cares. Another common approach is the establishment of sobriety checkpoints. At these stations, officers stop vehicles to evaluate drivers for symptoms of alcohol and drug impairment. In this case, the society provides the financial resources for the execution of these activities.


Campaigns against impaired driving have become common in the United States. Beer manufacturers have always warned consumers against drunk driving. However, these efforts have not deterred some people from driving while intoxicated, sleepy or distracted. As a result, the US has been losing more than ten thousand people each year. Meanwhile, the number of those injured caused by impaired driving is about 200,000. This has meant that tens of billions of dollars have to be spent each year to treat impaired driving victims. The society has also been forced to finance policing programs that cost billions of dollars.



Fell, J. C., McKnight, A. S., & Auld-Owens, A. (2013). Increasing impaired-driving enforcement visibility: Six case studies. (Report No. DOT HS 811 716). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.