Panama City Beach Fatality Serves as Reminder of the Danger of Mixing Drinking and Driving

Drunk driving leads to tragedy. We confront this truth on a regular basis in our work as a Panama City car accident law firm. We can help victims recover damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. We cannot, however, answer the question we are asked time and time again: how can someone get behind the wheel while impaired, knowing the dangers of drunk driving? There is no good answer to this question.

Pedestrian Killed by Suspected Drunk Driver in Panama City Beach

The News Herald is continuing to provide updates on a fatal accident involving a suspected drunk driver in Panama City Beach. On Sunday, 37-year-old James Gladney was crossing Joan Avenue when he was hit by a 1994 Dodge pickup. 27-year-old William Scott Rhodes was behind the wheel of the truck when it stuck Gladney, killing the pedestrian and propelling his body into the intersection with Houston Street. Police charged Rhodes with DUI at the scene and transported him to Bay County Jail.

DUI Statistics from the Center for Disease Control

In the course of a single day, almost 30 people die in the U.S. as a result of motor vehicle collisions involving at least 1 alcohol-impaired driver. That figure, which translates into 1 fatality every 48 minutes, is just one of the statistics provided on the Center for Disease Control's ("CDC") Impaired Driving factsheet. The info sheet further notes that the 10,228 people killed in alcohol-involved crashes in 2010 represents nearly a third (31%) of all motor vehicle fatalities nationwide. About 18% of driver deaths nationwide involve a drug other than alcohol, such as cocaine or marijuana, although these substances are often used in conjunction with consuming alcohol.

The CDC identifies three groups that are most at risk from alcohol-involved driving:

  1. Young people – The risk of a crash at all levels of BAC is higher among younger people, and drivers between 21 and 24 account for 34% of fatal crashes involving a BAC over the 0.08% legal limit.
  2. Motorcyclists – The CDC found that 28% of motorcyclists killed in fatal accidents in 2010 had BACs above 0.08%.
  3. Repeat Offenders – Drivers with prior DUI/DWI convictions.

Preventing DUIs and Protecting the Victims

Communities and governments can take a number of steps to prevent drunk driving deaths and injuries. Effectively enforcing the law, including revoking the license of people caught driving drunk, is key to cracking down on the problem. Sobriety checkpoints have consistently been shown to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, usually by around 9%. Community-based approaches, including health promotion efforts, are also known to be effective. Another effort known to be successful in combating the DUI problem is requiring offenders to attend mandatory substance abuse assessment, followed by treatment where deemed appropriate. The CDC has also suggested lowering the BAC threshold to 0.05%, increasing alcohol excise taxes at both the state and federal level, and requiring mandatory BAC testing following any injury-causing motor vehicle crash.

Individuals can also help prevent alcohol-related car accidents. If your plans involve drinking, be sure to make transportation arrangements in advance, such as designating a non-drinking driver or planning to call a taxi. Don't let friends drive drunk – take away their keys if they will not listen. If you are hosting an event where alcohol will be consumed, remind guests to plan ahead by designating a driver and offer alcohol-free alternatives for the sober drivers. You should also keep the number of a taxi company handy in case any of your guests need it (or plan to offer space to sleep overnight). Remember that there are no quick fixes and only time (not coffee, food, or a shower) can allow someone to sober up after drinking.

We can't tell our clients why people still get behind the wheel while intoxicated. We can, however, continue to provide information on drinking and driving, hoping to convince even one more person to say no to driving under the influence of alcohol. We will also continue to help the victims of Panama City drunk driving accidents. Civil injury and wrongful death suits provide victims with essential financial recovery. We also believe civil injury suits serve as one more deterrent against drinking and driving, hopefully allowing one tragedy to prevent another.

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