21 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: National Commission against Drunk Driving

Introduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol has already caused tens of thousands of vehicular related accidents and deaths in the country. According to the DUI Foundation (2008), approximately witnessed 17, 600 people died in traffic crashes involving alcohol in 2006. This accounted for more than 40% of all traffic deaths (DUI Foundation, 2008). The scenario is alarming to the public since intoxicated drivers are not only risking their own lives but also the safety of other people: their passengers, other drivers, bystanders etc. While not all traffic accidents and deaths are caused by drunk driving, J. Jacobs (1992) stressed that it is important to keep in mind that “drunk driving is a type of irresponsible behaviour that occurs in the context of a transportation system that experiences staggering property and human losses” (Jacobs, 1992, p. 15). S. Valle (1986) wrote that the presence of alcohol in highway accidents have escalated beyond anyone’s expectations since 1904. Citing a research on drunk-driving incidents from 1979 to 1980, Valle (1986) quoted that in just one year 24,000 to 27,500 people were fatally injured. This represented 55% of all vehicular accidents that happened during the said years. But this was not a complete data. Valle (1986) said that the record did not include incidents that involved the black community.

Because the statistics of drunk-driving related incidents are increasing, driving under the influence of alcohol it has become a predominant problem in American society. In response, one of the organizations formed by the government is the National Commission against Drunk Driving (NCADD). The commission “conducts research on the effectiveness of drunk driving countermeasures, serves as a national clearinghouse for innovative model programs and their dissemination, tracks the current status of anti-drunk driving laws and developments, and works closely with private industry and corporations to extend the anti-drunk driving message throughout the workplace” (as cited in Robin, 1991, p 14). Hence, the NCADD is a necessary organization for the diminishing of drunk-driving related incidents and the implementation of programs for safer highway driving in the country.

Brief History of Anti-Drunk Driving Programs and Organizations

Prior to the creation of the NCADD, the federal government conducted their first large-scale effort to control drunk driving in 1970. G.D. Robin (1991) wrote that it was the year when the Department of Transportation invested over $88 million to fund the Alcohol Safety Action Programs which were experimental in thirty-five communities across the country. The program was aimed to increase apprehensions of drunk drivers while increasing counseling and education for drivers. However, the programs were not successful enough. In evaluation the ASAP’s did not show any modest success as a whole. Robin (1991) quotes:

For example, studies comparing arrested drivers who were offered treatment and education with drivers given standard penalties showed little difference in subsequent re-arrest rates and/ or accident involvement. (Robin, 1991, p. 9)

When the federal funding ran out, the ASAP was discontinued; the discontinuance was also triggered by the lack of public support at the time for anti-drunk driving programs until a significant incident happened on May 3, 1980. Candy Lightner’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver. At that time, U.S. laws did not impose heavy sanctions on drunk driving. Robin (1991) commented that the driver Clarence Busch did not receive the maximum sentence because the court considered his alcoholism as a mitigating factor in the accident, although he was already convicted four times in six arrests for alcohol-related offenses. Thus, led by Candy Lightner, the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was launched. The MADD became “the driving force behind the movement to reform drunk-driving laws, to encourage societal intolerance of drunk drivers, and to alter the benign attitudes of prosecutors and judges toward the offense and the offenders.” The MADD was able to get the government on their side. At state level, the local government in California passed a new law in 1981 imposing a mandatory term of up to four years for repeat offenders and minimum fines of $1375. At the federal level, the MADD, together with other non-government organizations like the RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) was instrumental in the creation of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving and the passage of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age act, all during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. The Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving recognized the severity of intoxicated driving incidents and recommended that a permanent nongovernment organization be established to ensure a continuing effort to combat drunk driving. This led to the establishment of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving whose principal purpose is to assist the states, local governments and the private sector in implementing the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving (Robin, p 10-11).

Necessity of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving

The NCADD is necessary for the reduction of highway accidents and deaths. Yes, it is true that not all accidents are related to drunk driving. There are other factors involved in a traffic incident. For example, a driver may be driving beyond the speed limit, or he simply was not alert in observing emerging danger like cyclists, pedestrians, children playing or other vehicles on the road. Also, harsh weather conditions like hail, snow, and rain, cause numerous road accidents. Distractions like loud music or using a mobile phone are proven to be causes for such incidents. Other factors to be considered are vehicular malfunctions, although these seldom cause accidents due to advancements in technology. It is important to understand that most of the factors mentioned above are beyond the driver’s control. Emerging dangers on the road or poor weather conditions are always unpredictable. The same goes with malfunctions in the vehicle. However, distractions caused by loud music inside the car or using a mobile phone can be place squarely on the driver’s direct responsibility. Now if these can distract the driver, alcohol can do greater distraction in driving. It is a common observation that drunk drivers are very liable to commit errors or drive rashly. Since human nerves usually get numb when intoxicated with alcohol, drunk drivers can both get reckless and unstable in the highway. This is the reason why every state in the country has established laws against drunk driving and preventive programs. However, the government cannot do it all. Like the ASAP in 1970 which was discontinued because of lack of support from American citizens, any government program will not do much good without the participation of the public sector. This is the reason why the President’s Commission on Drunk Driving made provisions for the establishment of the NCADD. The commission would act as watchdog for the government and for the people to ensure that every sector involves in ensuring public safety are doing their job. A good lesson can be learned from the efforts of the MADD. Had they not spoken against the lenient traffic laws and penalties, the government during President Reagan would not have looked into the issue. J.R. Nerad (2008) writes that there is substantial progress made in reducing drunk driving incidents over the past twenty years. And the crusade launched by the NCADD has a positive effect. Nerad (2008) wrote:

From 1982 to 2000, the number of traffic fatalities involving alcohol decreased 34 percent, from 25,165 to 16,653. The number of drivers in fatal crashes with a blood-alcohol count exceeding 0.10 decreased 38 percent, from 16,793 to 10,408. That’s a big deal. Think of it: nearly 10,000 people escaped death at the hands of a drunk driver in the most recent year for which we have statistics, 2001, versus the experience in 1982. Nerad (2008)

The numbers speak for the necessity of the NCADD. When they were in full operation, drunk-driving related incidents dropped. The problem is that the fight against drunk driving has stagnated. According to the NCADD the statistics of 2001 show that government and public efforts against drunk driving has not been that vigorous as of the preceding years. NCADD Chairman Robert Stempel (1997) commented:

The fight against drunk driving has simply stalled, and it’s time to jump-start it. Each year since 1994, alcohol-related traffic deaths have hovered between 16,000 and 17,000, while the percentage of highway deaths that have been alcohol-related has stagnated at about 40 percent” (As cited in PRNewswire, 1997).

Indeed, the NCADD needs to step up its efforts in fulfilling the mandate given by the Presidential Commission. The present government needs to be alerted, and the local police supported in ensuring the safety of the public. Further, those involved in the beverage industry are to be reminded again to be responsible in conducting their businesses. Above all, the public needs to be warned against the dire consequences of drunk driving, like fatal accidents or death, and heavy sanctions imposed by the law. Moreover, new drivers need to be educated on responsible driving and everybody should be conscious enough to report a suspected drunk driver to the police. Yes, the government and the public have their share of responsibility. But someone has to focus their efforts on the fight against drunk driving. Based on the diminished number of incidents during the active days of the NCADD, the said commission needs to engage itself again. They are needed by the country in times when lives of innocent victims are wasted because of the irresponsible actions of drunk drivers. John Moulden (1997) former president of the NCADD, said it correctly:

This unrelenting epidemic of death and disabling injury on our highways is totally unacceptable. We need renewed political leadership and action at the federal level and in every state and community if we are serious about curbing this most frequent violent crime. NCADD’s members and supporters are eager to work with our government leaders and all concerned citizens to reengage the nation once again in bringing down the drunk driving death toll. (As cited in PRNewswire, 1997)

In summary, the National Commission against Drunk Driving is necessary for diminishing drunk-driving related incidents and the implementation of programs for safer highway driving in the country. The commission have done a good work until they became stagnant in 1994. But accidents caused by drunk driving are increasing again. Hence, the action of the NCADD is again needed by the present American communities and the future of public safety in our country.

References

DUI Foundation. Related Accidents and Injuries. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from             http://www.duifoundation.org/drunkdriving/accidents/

Jacobs, J.B. (1992). Drunk Driving: An American Dilemma, 2nd Edition. IL: University of          Chicago Press.

Nerad, J.R.(2008). Has the War on Drunk Driving Stalled? In Driving Today. Retrieved            February 27, 2009 from http://www.drivingtoday.com/features/

archive/drunk_driving/index.html

Robin, G.D. (1991). Waging the Battle Against Drunk Driving: Issues, Countermeasures, and    Effectiveness. CA: Greenwood Press

PRNewswire (1997). Preliminary Highway Death Statistics for 2001 Show Fight Against

Drunk Driving Has Stalled. The Accident Reconstruction Communications Network. Retrieved February 27, 2009 from http://www.accidentreconstruction.com/

news/apr02/042402a.asp

Valle, S.K. (1986). Drunk Driving in America: Strategies and Approaches to Treatment. New    York: Haworth Press, Inc

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