There is no shortage of stories about drunk drivers and how they disrupt their own lives and those of others. Arrests and jail can cause financial ruin; crashes cause injury, death, and broken lives. Usually these consequences affect the friends and family of the offender and, of course, the victims.
One drunk driver in Quebec managed to wreak havoc in a much wider circle. Not long ago a woman from Gatineau struck a Hydro-Québec pole with her car, knocking out power to hundreds of homes in the area. Police revealed that her blood alcohol level was double the legal limit.
It’s probably better that a power pole gets hit than another car or pedestrian, but the case illustrates how drunk driving can have an impact that goes far beyond the offender and his or her immediate family and friends. It’s an unusual example, to be sure. Less dramatic but more convincing is a study that was done five years ago to track the costs to Canada of impaired driving. At that time, there were more than 200,000 impaired driving crashes a year, costing an average of $20 billion. That’s $621 per Canadian.
Thanks to the efforts of government and safety advocates, that number has crept downward, which is good. Stronger DUI laws, ignition interlock programs, and better impaired driving enforcement have helped shift the culture towards sobriety behind the wheel. But individual crashes are still costly – hospital emergency rooms, medical treatment, court trials and prison cost everyone, not just the offender or victim.
If you know someone who takes a lax attitude toward drunk driving, let them know that their actions are costing everyone. Not only are they putting themselves and other innocent people at risk, they are also using up public money that could be spent on improving the lives of all Canadians, instead of just cleaning up their mess.
Maybe a light bulb will go on.