Education: The First Line of Defense Against Drunk Driving (Guest Blog)

This is a guest blog post from I DRIVE SAFELY, the leader in the online driver training industry, offering Online Traffic School/ Defensive Driving, Teen and Adult Drivers Ed and Insurance Reduction courses.  

Strict enforcement of drunk driving laws is an essential part of an overall public safety policy. However, every time an intoxicated driver stumbles during a field sobriety test or a police cruiser pulls over a car swerving wildly across multiple lanes, it signals that something has already gone horribly wrong. Either those intoxicated drivers simply did not understand just how much danger they were putting themselves and others in by driving drunk, or else they didn’t understand the severity of the consequences of getting caught.

Thus, the best way to fight against drinking and driving is to educate people about its dangers. The good news is that there are already in place many opportunities for people to improve their knowledge on drinking and driving, and how to avoid doing it.

Teen Drivers Ed

Because teens get their licenses when they are 16, but they don’t start drinking until they are 21, there is a fundamental disconnect between driver education and alcohol education. By the time people can legally start drinking, many of them have been driving for five years, and it is unlikely that they’ll be returning to driving class to learn about the dangers of drunk driving. This is why making drunk driving education a fundamental part of general teen driver’s educationas teens prepare to get their learners permits and driver licenses is essential. When budding drivers understand just how serious and dangerous driving can be, and the ways that alcohol compounds those dangers several fold, they will be more likely to make better decisions and avoid drinking and driving when they become drinking age.

Further, simply knowing that a sound and sober mind is a prerequisite for safe driving should be treated as fundamental driving knowledge, as much as knowing how to change lanes or parallel park. It only makes sense that alcohol education be a core part of every driver’s first driver training.

Advertising Campaigns

Of course, even mature adults suffer lapses in judgment. After five, ten, fifteen or more years after they’ve taken driver’s ed, their memory about the dangers of drunk driving can get a little hazy. Fortunately, mass media ad campaigns can reach a significant chunk of the driving population through magazine, television and radio campaigns, which can help remind adult drivers what it means to drive responsibly. Anti drunk driving advertisements by nonprofit groups like the Ad Council have even spawned famous, memorable slogans like “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.”

Educating Traffic Violators

Most states in the US have a traffic school or defensive drivingprogram. These educational programs usually give drivers an opportunity to remove a citation from their driver record by taking a four, six, or eight hour course on the fundamentals of driving safety.

This is of course gives the perfect opportunity to remind people of the risk drunk driving poses to their personal safety, the safety of others on the road, and their driving privileges. By learning about the seriousness of drunk driving alongside other driving safety topics, traffic law violators can be reminded just how much is at stake.

What Can You Do?

If you have a teenager, ask your child’s high school what role alcohol education plays into teen drivers ed.

Check to see if your state has a statewide defensive driving program, and write to your congressman expressing how important it is make sure traffic violators get educated on the dangers of drinking and driving.

And as always, if you feel that a friend or family member might be engaging in risky behavior, take the opportunity to let them know how much you care about them and how much they stand to lose by driving intoxicated.

1. Elder, R. W., Shults, R. A., Sleet, D. A., Nichols, J. L., Thompson, R. S., & Rajab, W. (2004). Effectiveness of mass media campaigns for reducing drinking and driving and alcohol-involved crashes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27, 57–65.