Driving While Under The Influence…Are We STILL Needing to Talk About This?!?!?
Unfortunately, YES!!! Despite the massive public education on the subject and the common “everybody knows this” attitude about driving under the influence, statistics would say that what we know and what we do are two VERY different things. In 2016, one person died every 50 minutes in the United States…every 50 minutes! That number is tragic beyond belief, and that’s BETTER than it used to be.
While the number of fatalities seems unbelievably high, that doesn’t even include the number of people who are injured in crashes and other alcohol related incidents, nor does it take into account the BILLIONS of dollars that driving under the influence costs every single year.
Get this…according to the CDC there were more than 1 million drivers arrested for driving under the influence in 2016, but that is only ONE PERCENT of the self-reported episodes that US adult drivers claimed in that same year. That means that 111 MILLION adults said that they drove while impaired during a 12 month period…are you kidding me?!?!
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it doesn’t take much alcohol to have an effect on driving ability. In fact, a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of just .02 begins to affect visual functions and multi-tasking…both REALLY important in driving! Increasing the BAC to .05 leads to impaired judgment and decreased response times. Going to .08 (the legal limit) reduces the brain’s ability to process information, and by the time you get to .10, there is a reduced ability to maintain lane position and to brake appropriate to the situation.
So you can get a good idea of your BAC at any given time, simply go to your App store and type in “BAC Calculator.” In minutes you can download an app that you can use any time you’ve been drinking and are trying to decide if you should be driving.
Beyond alcohol, the next most common substance associated with impaired driving is marijuana. According to the literature, there are significant differences between the effects of alcohol and marijuana on driving, but that if the two substances are taken together, the combined effect DRAMATICALLY increases the impairment levels, and at much lower amounts than if either substance were consumed by itself.
Since the legal, financial, and emotional penalties for driving while under the influence is so severe (as it should be), it makes complete sense to create some simple strategies to avoid being put in the situation where you could not only ruin your day, but you could ruin someone’s life…including yours as well.
Strategy #1. Arrange a ride to and from your destination. If you know you are going to an event where you will be ingesting any substance that could impair you, plan ahead to arrange a ride to and from your home. Whether this is through a designated driver, a cab, Uber, etc. a little forethought is all it takes to Get Home Safe.
Strategy #2. Call for a ride home and leave your car until tomorrow. If you end up in a situation where you’ve had too much, don’t chance it! Call a cab or a ride share service to get you home safe and sound. You can also see if one of your friends who is at the same event will drop you off on their way home.
Strategy #3. Stay where you are. After partying, if you are at a safe place like a family or friend’s house, the best choice might be to stay there until the effects of the substance has worn off. Depending on how much you’ve ingested, that might take a few hours, or it could take eight hours or more. No matter how long it takes, it’s worth it to stay put rather than get behind the wheel.
As a note, it is illegal to operate any vehicles while under the influence. That includes things like boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, and even bicycles in some states!
Operating a vehicle is a privilege that we all enjoy as Americans. As responsible citizens, it is our responsibility to take that privilege seriously and to make the conscious decision that driving while under the influence of ANY substance is something that we just don’t do.