Downtown Lansing resident and Lansing Community College student Debryan Threatt has been affected by drunk driving in more ways than one in her lifetime in the city.
“Drunk driving in Lansing is such a problem with all the bars not only downtown but throughout the city. Too many people think they’re capable of making it home after a night out,” Threatt said. “My brother got hit by a drunk driver two years ago, luckily he survived. Drinking and driving is something me and my family take very seriously and thankfully so does the Lansing Police Department.”
Chief of Lansing Police Michael Yankowski and the police department are trying to do what they can to put a stop to these instances that could easily affect so many.
“Outside of actively responding to calls for service regarding traffic accidents and citizens’ complaints, we work with the state of Michigan Office of Highway Safety and Planning with special enforcement overtime,” Yankowski said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day 28 people die in an alcohol-related accident. If you do the math, that’s every 53 minutes a person will be a victim to someone driving under the influence.
“When my brother got hit immediately I was so worried for him, but as soon as I knew he was going to be okay, I started thinking about the guy who hit him,” 20-year-old Threatt said. “The man who hit my brother is sat in jail for what he did and he has several DUI’s before even hitting my brother. I know that man didn’t think a delayed decision could cost him so much.”
From 2010-2011 Michigan drunk driving deaths increased from 236 deaths (25 percent) to 255 deaths (29 percent), according to the Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD).
In their Impaired Driving Action Plan, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety and Planning (OHSP) reported that there were more than 49,000 alcohol-impaired crashes in Michigan from 2011-2015. Out of those 11,000 crashes, injuries and or property damages were deemed preventable by OHSP.
Legal-Aid lawyer Sonya Belafonte has been on the receiving end of impaired crash calls from her clients and she’s seen a few recognizable things.
“In a city like Lansing where not only the downtown area is stacked with bars, but is also not far from a college town. These types of places all across the country are more susceptible to high number drinking and driving cases,” Belafonte said.
Belafonte explained that majority of the alcohol related crash cases she’s been a part of the person was traveling a short distance from that possible party to their nearby home before everything went wrong.
Ingham County itself struggles with impaired driving when compared to not only the national average and statistics, but as well as the state of Michigan. During 2015, there were also 13 fatal crashes, eight of them had drugs or alcohol involved. The statewide alcohol related crash average in Michigan is 115, while Ingham alone averages 243 alcohol-impaired crashes per year.
“I have seen many lives and families destroyed by drunk driving. Many times alcohol leads to other addictions like drugs, gambling and theft,” Yankowski said.
According to NHTSA, a person’s’ blood alcohol level (BAC) is a key indicator besides reckless driving that can let an officer know how much the person has drank. If someone has a BAC of over 0.08 their muscle coordination becomes very poor and it becomes harder to detect danger. If the BAC is over 0.15 percent the person has very little muscle control and can’t possibly pay attention to the task of driving due to lack of processing visuals and audio.
In Michigan they collect drinking and driving statistics every year. In 2013 74.5 percent of people breathalyzed had a BAC level of 0.10 and higher. In the following years both the amount of people breathalyzed and people tested in each level went down, but when comparing the percentage it wasn’t much of an improvement. In 2014 75.4 percent of people had a BAC level of 0.10-0.99 and in 2015 it increased to 78.6 percent.
“I have seen improvements in the City of Lansing, but still there is much work to be done. I think a large educational campaign, stricter laws and punishments, along with the expansion of taxi cabs, Uber and Lyft would be beneficial,” Yankowski said.