Most people do not plan on drinking and driving. In fact, most people do not have a plan at all when it comes to going out to a holiday soirée or out for a night on the town. The only thing usually on the agenda is to have a few cocktails or beers and enjoy yourself.
After enjoying the festivities, you realize you have to leave somehow. You try to call a cab or ask for a ride. After you have no luck finding someone to drive you home, you pull your keys out and tell yourself "I will be fine. I didn't really have that much to drink."
The Lethal Facts on Drunk Driving
28 people die every single day in America from a drunk driving crash, according to MADD. Even if deaths do not result, serious injuries occur. Every two minutes on average someone is injured in a drunk driving crash.
In 2012 alone, 10,322 people died and 290,000 were injured total from people driving while drunk. Between court fees, damages, insurance and medical costs, the total amount of all these accidents is around $199 billion dollars per year. That is $800 per adult in the United States.
Despite these terrifying statistics, 29.1 million people still chose to drive drunk in 2012. This number exceeds the total population for the whole of the state of Texas.
Why Alcohol and Cars Are Such a Deadly Combination
Since alcohol is a depressant, it has quite a substantial effect on your central nervous system. Even if you are below the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), your impairment can be enough to cause substantial harm to yourself and others.
At BAC 0.02 you lose judgment abilities. Your muscles and brain activity also relax, creating an elevated mood. This "buzz" may be perfect for listening to music or enjoying a chat. Behind the wheel, it can already begin to affect your vision and your ability to multi-task.
At BAC 0.05 your motor functions are significantly depressed, as is your brain's ability to react. Your eyes move slower and your visual perception is degraded. Your information processing abilities are also reduced, hurting your capacity to track moving objects, steer adequately or respond in time to emergency situations.
At BAC 0.08 you are legally "drunk." Your muscle coordination is completely reduced, creating difficulty in standing upright or remaining still. The natural human ability to detect danger is severely hampered. Judgment, reasoning, self-control and memory are all reduced as well. Some people may even experience short-term memory loss or loss of their ability to safely control speed. Needless to say, steering abilities and response times are also lowered to dangerous levels.
All of these conditions mean that even a few drinks can be enough to end or ruin someone's life forever. The human body can only process one drink per hour, equating to:
- A 12 fl oz beer
- A 5 fl oz glass of wine
- A 1.5 fl oz "shot" or "measure" of pure alcohol, such as whiskey or vodka
Each drink can raise your BAC by 0.04 – 0.02 depending on your body weight. Keep track of your drinks and remember that the only truly safe BAC to drive under is zero.
Alcohol and the Holidays
While drunk driving is a problem all year round, it becomes a particular issue during the holiday season. Last Christmas, alcohol was blamed on 52 percent of all collisions. New Year's Eve, the proportion of collisions with alcohol involvement increased to 57 percent.
It's a sorry state of affairs when we can forecast that a total of 1,200 people will die during the entirety of the holiday season from alcohol-related road deaths, and more than 25,000 will be injured. New Year's Day in particular has been called the worst day of the year for fatal drunk driving crashes. These crashes are 150 percent more likely to occur on January 1st than any other given day of the year.
Have a Plan and Stick to It
In light of these sobering statistics, most people know well enough in principle to avoid drunk driving. In a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey, nine out of ten drivers stated that they saw drinking and driving as a "serious threat" to health and safety.
Yet these same people may end up bending their principles once they are stuck without a way to get home. Always plan ahead before going over to a holiday party or going out on the town for New Year's Eve. Here are some possibilities:
- Pick a designated driver. Someone may have good reason to be sober, or could be persuaded to stay sober with the promise of compensation or favors.
- Do not rely completely on a taxi. New Year's Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year for cab drivers, especially a few hours after midnight when everyone wants to get home.
- Find a safe, reliable public transportation route. Get people in your group together and work out a set time to arrive at the bus stop or train/subway station. Do not miss your deadline or you may have to resort to less safe measures.
- Pack a bag for an overnight stay. You may end up having to "crash" at a friend's house for a while so you do not crash on the road.
- Consider giving someone your car keys. As stated earlier, the temptation to simply get in your car and drive might become overwhelming. When your judgment is impaired, you are capable of convincing yourself that driving is a good idea.
- Avoid walking in most situations. New Year's Eve has the highest amount of pedestrians killed of any night of the year. If you are planning on walking, make sure to wear reflective clothing, go in a group and have a backup plan in case the weather turns sour.
- Book a hotel. This option is expensive, but it can give you a convenient place to sleep after living it up downtown.
Taking personal responsibility is important for avoiding alcohol-related crashes and deaths. Even if you do everything in your power to stay safe you still have to worry about other people out and on the road.
If you or someone close to you becomes seriously hurt or worse as a result of drunk driving, you may need legal representation. Poorad Razavi is a civil trial attorney specializing in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims. If you have any questions about a potential claim or simply wish to inquire about information contained within any of these articles, please do not hesitate to contact him.