Weapons of Mass Destruction...are present right under our noses!
Weapons of Mass Destruction
...are present right under our noses!
by Gary E. Swartz
They are openly visible on every road and highway throughout every state and community in this great United States. The sad problem is, the vast majority are only addressed when they have caused death, injuries, and destruction. Not to mention, the astronomical costs associated with the aftermath. The statistics are there year in and year out. We just do not know who will be one of the next victims. I liken it to Russian roulette.
If the newspapers, radio, and TV stations would report the annual statistics rather than just the daily events, it would really be an attention-getter.
I speak from experience because I am one of the statistics who is fortunate enough to still be alive today. Some of you readers may be wondering what I am talking about; some may have already figured it out.
In any event, I am addressing automobiles and vehicles driven by drinking and drunk drivers.
As far as statistics go, newspapers and news stations are not currently reporting the concerns associated with drinking or drunk driver accidents.
There are many who can take the blame. At the top of the list are elected lawmakers and alcohol industries with their advertising promotions. Revenues hinder the solution. The total revenues for alcohol industries on an annual basis and the break down of their allocations must be staggering. How much is allocated to violators compared to what the victims receive and benefit from?
Speaking from experience, as a victim in the State of Maryland, positive assistance needs developing.
Alcohol is society's oldest and most popular legal drug. When you realize alcohol consumption, it is rather hard to impose meaningful restrictions. Did you know that about three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol related crash sometime in their life? This means 30% of the United States population, approximately 100 million individuals, are going to be either killed, disabled, or injured. This is not counting the trickle down effect to numerous individuals impacted by this National catastrophe, which includes all cost factors. This statistic alone should remove the blinders and open eyes to make changes with the hopes of correcting this out of control recurring preventable disaster.
A 2002 statistic indicates that victims are not getting the proper help they need when they need it most--not two or three years later (or never). By that time you have used up and lost everything you have worked for your entire life.
Americans have paid 71.6 billion dollars of the alcohol related crash bill over the years. This is 63 plus percent of the total cost of these crashes. When you compare the cost paid out for crashes to revenues taken in from alcohol, the money lost far outweighs dollars taken in. Especially when you take into consideration all parties impacted. This indicates a host of problems--insurance coverage, victims impact rights, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, plea bargains, restitution, and much more.
Five hundred and thirteen thousand individuals were injured in alcohol related crashes in 2005 across the country. In 2004 there were 16,694 fatalities--an average of one alcohol related fatality every 31 minutes. This amounts to roughly forty-nine deaths and hundreds of injuries daily.
Approximately one-third of all drivers arrested for DUI or DWI, are repeated offenders. The current or proposed legislation for three time offenders is only an open invitation to drink and drive. It is like giving two changes to kill or injure prior to receiving a maximum penalty.
I am sure you have either said or heard the expressions, "I am only a social drinker" or "one or two beers will not hurt anyone". Eighty percent of alcohol related fatalities are primarily caused by beer consumption with wine and liquor equaling 20%. Recent annual advertising expenditures for beer, wine and liquor combined were 1.9 billion dollars--over 10 times the amount spent on milk advertisement (137.7 million dollars). Forty-nine percent of children live in homes with no set rules on watching TV. Young people view about 20,000 commercials each year of which 2,000 are for beer and wine. College students spend approximately 5.5 billion dollars a year on alcohol. They think this is normal. On average, this is more than they spend on soft drinks, milk, juice, tea, coffee, and books combined.
All states should be in line with making the legal drinking age 21 or older. This may help prevent underage purchasing. States where this is already the legal age limit, have 15-20 percent less alcohol related crashes than those where the age limit is still 18 years old. Restrictions and penalties should also be uniformed across the board. For example, if you can mandate zero tolerance to those driving and drinking any amount of alcohol under age 21, then shouldn't it also apply to all regardless of age?
We are talking about an enormous amount of life and injuries occurring each year. Elected officials, who have the power to enact legislation for prevention, should be held accountable as well. It would be nice to see a large percentage of revenues used to aid victims and families affected.
The State of Maryland has laws in place to help and protect the victims--including drinking or drunk driver victims. The problem is the laws are in place, but they are not being enforced. In my case there were numerous victim's rights violations under the law, which states, "Guidelines for the treatment of and assistance to crime victims and witnesses."--Article 27 section 761, 770, annotated Code of Maryland. Article 47 Constitution of Maryland.
Statistics used throughout this article were taken from MADD's (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) website. Without the efforts of MADD pushing legislation, etc., and the Maryland Crime Victim's Resource Center offering help, we most likely would not be as far along as we are concerning the overall drinking and drunk driving issues. I appreciate their efforts. Despite their labor, securing our safety is still a slow and never-ending process.
One way to speeding things up is in the numbers--a banding of every victim of a drinking and drunk driver in Maryland. According to the statistics, the numbers are great enough to do effective lobbying of our own. I am only one person, but I am willing to do what I can to rid us of this current and ongoing National dilemma.
Drinking and drunk drivers have a choice. When they choose to break the law they are responsible and need to pay the price. They are not the only ones. The outside influences previously spoken of are also responsible.
Intent and plea bargains also hinder the progress of preventing drinking and drunk driving legislation. In my case the way I understand, the drunk driver would have had to crash into me on purpose for it to be intentional. I do not agree. The intent started when the drinking or drunk driver got behind the wheel. I was the end result of that intent. Aside from this, what happened to the terms "reckless disregard" and "reckless endangerment"?
As far as plea bargains go, in my case I was never consulted about my case or about any plea bargains. I was notified by the States Attorney's office at 4pm on a Friday before the hearing the following Monday. Is this how a victim is supposed to be treated? What could discourage drinking and drunk driving somewhat would be to make it mandatory that victims would have to give permission in writing that a plea bargain is acceptable.
I would like the opportunity to address the following issues that have personally impacted and adversely affected not only myself, but my family and friends, and my wife, who are also victims of drinking and drunk drivers.
As you can see there is more to being a victim of a drinking or drunk driver crash than meets the eye.
It is my goal to help prevent others from experiencing and going through the traumatic events my wife and myself have experienced.