Family Nearly Has a Second OWI Collision. The Odds? All Too Good.

michigan-owi-oddsIt’s one of those news stories that sounds like a one-in-a-million occurrence. A family was driving home from court, where they had just witnessed the sentencing of a drunk driver who had killed their son Jared. Their son’s ashes were in the car.

Then another drunk driver swerved into their lane. Fortunately this time they were able to avoid the car, which they followed, taking a video for evidence. The drunk driver was arrested.  He was found to have a blood alcohol concentration 3 times the legal limit.

At first it seems like a frightening coincidence. But when you look at the numbers, you’ll see that it’s all too common for drunk drivers to be on the road.

Around 35,000 people are arrested for impaired driving each year on Michigan’s roads. But only a small percentage of Michigan OWI offenders are ever caught. How small? No one knows exactly, but California, which has a higher arrest rate than most states, estimates that they catch only one in 500 drunk drivers.

Let’s accept that estimate for the sake of argument, and say it applies to Michigan as well. That means that each year there are something like 17,500,00 instances of drunk driving across the state.

With more than 17 million drunk drivers out there, is it that surprising that you might encounter one – or two? In fact, you probably encounter more, but don’t realize it because you write it off as a crazy driver who forgets to signal, or who’s going too slowly in the fast lane.

And just because they’re not caught doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. In this case, a slower reaction could have caused a second heartbreaking collision in the life of this unfortunate family.

The point is that this incident in Chippewa County, Michigan should not be considered surprising. Drunk driving is all too common, and every state should be doing its utmost to prevent recidivism. In the case of Michigan, requiring ignition interlock devices for all Michigan OWI offenders would be a good start, as would administrative license revocation (ALR), by which licenses are suspended automatically upon refusal or failure of a sobriety test, without court proceedings.

Please remember that drunk drivers are out there, in numbers far larger than we like to imagine.