National Impaired Driving Prevention Month
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. While many people around the country celebrate the holidays responsibly, an average of 300 people die in an impaired driving accident the week between Christmas and New Years.
In order to reduce the amount of people injured and killed in impaired driving accidents it’s crucial to spread awareness about responsible driving habits and the effects alcohol and other substances have on driving ability.
Blood Alcohol Concentration and Drunk Driving
It is illegal in all 50 states to drive drunk.
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be considered legally impaired is 0.08%.
That said, you can be charged if you are found driving with a BAC over 0.00%. How quickly one reaches a BAC of 0.08% depends on a wide variety of factors such as weight, gender, body mass and metabolism.
Even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. According to the National Safety and Traffic Administration in 2017, 1,837 people were killed in accidents involving a driver with a BAC of 0.01% to 0.07%, which is technically under the legal limit.
How Alcohol Affects Driving
Clearly, impaired driving is super dangerous and something that should be avoided at all costs. Even if you think you are okay to drive, if you’ve been drinking, you are not.
Let’s take a look at how different blood alcohol concentrations can affect your ability to drive.
The table below is from the National Safety and Traffic Administration.
Effects on Driving
Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood.
Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target), decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention).
Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition.
Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations (in additions to the previous effects).
Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired.
Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception (in additions to the previous effects).
Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking.
Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately (in additions to the previous effects).
Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance.
Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing (in additions to the previous effects).
What To Do Instead of Driving
If you find yourself getting behind the wheel after drinking, stop. There is never a good reason to risk your life and the lives of those around you. If you really have somewhere to be, use a ride-share app like Uber or Lyft. If these are unavailable, call a trusted friend or family member for a ride.
Planning ahead goes a long way when it comes to reducing impaired driving. If you know you will need to drive later, don’t partake in any substance use, order a nonalcoholic drink instead.
If you’re out with a group, designate a driver before leaving the house. That person will be responsible for getting everyone home safely and will agree not to use any substances that may impair their ability to drive.
The Bottom Line
Driving under the influence is deadly and illegal. The risks are not worth the reward. If you are caught driving under the influence you will be given a DUI, which in addition to being very expensive (an average of $6,500) can make it difficult to find work and housing, along with anything else that may require a background check.
Beyond getting a DUI, you could seriously injure or kill yourself and/or other innocent people who happen to be in your path. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the consequences are severe. Find another way to your destination and always help those who may be in need of a ride, if you are able to.