Not only is drinking and driving against the law, it's among the most dangerous things you could do. Alcohol inhibits your ability to think clearly, which negatively impacts your ability to pay attention and make safe driving choices. If the law isn't enough of a deterrent, a clear understanding of what can happen when you drink and drive could be enough to discourage this reckless behavior.
Approximately 112 million adults reported drinking and driving in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, almost 11,000 people died in car accidents involving at least one person whose blood-alcohol limit was above 0.08 percent, also according to the CDC. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving website reports that 27 people die each day because of drunk driving. Four out of every five drunk drivers are men, and 32 percent of all drunk driving incidents involve a male between the ages of 21 and 34.
Car accidents are the primary danger associated with drinking and driving. Consuming too much alcohol impairs your ability to use your common sense and think long-term, according to DrinkingAndDriving.org. Having too much to drink also slows your reaction time and makes it difficult for your brain to process information. When all of these factors come into play, it makes for one dangerous and distracted driver. When you aren't able to pay attention to the cars around you, you're more likely to get into a car accident. When your reaction times are slower because of alcohol, you might not hit the brakes soon enough, which can cause serious accidents.
Danger to Others
When you get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, you're not only putting your own life in danger, but you're jeopardizing the safety of everyone else on the road, too. Many drunk drivers get into one-car accidents and seriously injure or kill themselves. In 22.3 percent of all car accidents causing driver death, the driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more, according to U.S. Census Bureau. In many other cases, they collide with other motorists, often seriously injuring or killing them. According to the "Journal of Political Economy," 53.2 percent of fatal car accidents involved one drunk driver and one sober driver.
How Much Is Too Much
By law, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher is considered driving while drunk. For the average person, drinking the equivalent of four beers is enough to reach a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, according to the CDC. Certain people, such as small women, can be legally drunk after drinking two or three beers, however. After five beers, the average person will have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent, and after seven beers, that number rises to 0.15 percent. When you go out with friends or family, always pick someone to be the designated driver or plan to call a cab rather than driving home yourself. Never get into the car with someone who has been drinking either. If you suspect that someone is driving drunk while you're out on the road, call the police immediately.
About the Author
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
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The Dangers of Drinking and Driving
Together We Can Make a Difference.
This article is also in Spanish. Click here for the Spanish version.
Millions of people worldwide do it. Many say “What’s the harm, I got home safely and no one was hurt?” Just because you made it home safely to your bed does not mean that you’re making a right decision. When putting those keys in the ignition and driving away after drinking you are not only putting your life at risk but you are risking the lives of all those you come across while driving.
Poor Decision Making
Alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgement, depth perception as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely. Its easy to think you are driving normally when truly you are not. When the police take notice you could be hit with a DUI/DWI. This is the best case scenario. Getting into an accident your life could be lost as well as any others who too are involved in this accident. According to 2009 drunk driving statistics there were 10,839 traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. This is those whose lives were lost not the total number of alcohol related accidents, or the number of individuals arrested for drinking and driving.
Is drinking and driving more important than your legal status or life? Take a cab, protect yourself as well as others on the roadways, don’t become another drinking and driving statistic. Operating a motor vehicle while sober can be difficult in itself, adding alcohol or other intoxicants into the mix is putting your life and the lives of others on the roadways at risk. Make the right choice and put your keys down.
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The Legal Repercussions of Drink and Driving, DUI/DWI
The sound of a siren, the red flashing lights and a person in uniform knocking at your driver side window. An officer has pulled you over for suspicious driving. If the officer smells a strong odor of alcohol, you exhibit slurred speech or general incoherence you will be asked to exit your vehicle and move to the side of the road where you will undergo field sobriety testing. If you fail to demonstrate the proper motor skills or judgment to safely operate a motor vehicle during these field tests, the officer can then ask permission to perform a blood alcohol content test, commonly abbreviated BAC. In most states the legal limit for BAC is .10%, however many states have adopted a lower BAC of .08%. Failing these tests will result in a ride in the back of a police car, a night in jail and charges of a DUI or DWI. You are now facing the legal repercussions of drinking and driving.
All 50 states have taken serious action when it comes to individuals that DUI, driving under the influence, or DWI, driving while intoxicated. There is zero tolerance, all violators will be arrested and charged accordingly.
A DUI, driving under the influence, is the act of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level, BAC, over the legal state limit. If you are arrested and charged for a DUI the state will prosecute you accordingly. First offense typically resulting in loss of license for 1 year, as well as, federally mandated outpatient alcohol abuse program and probation. Those who have had multiple DUI’s will most likely be prosecuted to the fullest ability of the law, which varies with each individual state jurisdiction. Regardless to if this is your first offense or second if in an accident while DUI you will be fully prosecuted, if an individual is killed as a result you will too be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
A DWI, driving while intoxicated, is too the act of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level, BAC, that is over the legal state limit. If a law officer suspects you of DWI you will undergo a field sobriety test, breathalyzer test and/or blood test to determine intoxication level. The legal repercussions of a DWI are more severe in comparison to an DUI. If you are found guilty of an DWI, you will be charged with drinking and driving. The legal repercussions of an DWI vary with each individual state jurisdiction, often resulting with time in jail, federally mandated alcohol treatment programs and loss of drivers license for an amount of time.
Making The Choice Not to Drink and Drive
According to National statistics, an average of 12,000 people die every year in DUI-related accidents. There is an average of 900,000 arrested each year for DUI/DWI and a full 1/3 of those are repeat offenders. While National averages have dropped by half over the past 35 years there is still an ongoing problem with drinking and driving. The solution to this problem does not just rest in the hands of law enforcement to find these violators and prosecute them but within each and every person to make the conscious choice not to drink and drive. There is always a better option. Keep the roadways safe along with your loved ones and the loved ones of others by not drinking and driving.
Resources and Organizations
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD
- College Drinking Prevention
- Drunk Driving Statistics and Facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Center for the Victims of Crime: Drunk Driving
- Response Ability Update
- Community Coalition for Healthy Youth
- Alcohol Research Group
- College Alcohol Study
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Facts on Tap
- Higher Education Center
- Monitoring the Future
How You Can Help End Drinking and Driving
First thing anyone can do is make the choice themselves not to drink and drive. With this said there are many other ways you can help to end drinking and driving. Educating the youth, your personal family members as well as youth within your community is very important. They must know the dangers of drinking and driving as well as the legal repercussions of these action. Another way to help would be to volunteer with an organization set out to end drinking and driving, this will help you to reach out to more individuals and get the word across about the dangers of drinking and driving. You can also donate to these organizations, contributions made by individuals like yourself are what make it possible to keep drivers educated and safe. If you or a loved one have a problem with alcohol, please read our resource on choosing a safe and effective alcohol treatment center.
Regardless to how you help; by making the choice not to drink yourself, personally educating youth, volunteering or donating, you will be working to end drinking and driving.