The dangers of drinking and driving can potentially affect anyone who drives or is driven on American roads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 48 minutes, a person dies from a vehicle crash that is associated with alcohol-impaired driving. This very serious problem is something that everyone can help prevent. One way to do that is to understand how drinking affects driving and the dangers associated with it. By understanding the dangers, people can take active steps to help prevent it from occurring and reduce the number of deaths caused by it.
What is Driving Under the Influence?
Driving under the influence, which is commonly referred to by its acronym, DUI, is when a person drives while drunk and/or under the influence of drugs. It is what a person can be charged with or convicted of after driving drunk. In some states, it is also considered the same as driving while intoxicated (DWI). This is a felony and is punishable by law and can cause an individual to lose their driver’s license, be fined, and even spend time in jail.
What is a DWI?
DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. As noted, some states consider it the same as a DUI and use the terms interchangeably. In other states, the law sees DWIs and DUIs differently and views them as two different crimes according to the laws of the state in question. A DWI charge in some states is the worse of the two crimes and holds a harsher penalty than a DUI. This is determined by the amount of alcohol that an individual has in their bloodstream at the time that they are placed under arrest. Other states consider DWI to be driving while intoxicated by alcohol only and do not include drugs in the definition. As with a DUI, a person who is charged with a DWI faces the loss of their license, penalties, suspension of their license, and will likely spend some time in jail.
How Does Alcohol Affect a Driver?
Alcohol impairs certain functions and faculties that are needed to safely operate a vehicle. This includes the driver’s ability to concentrate and make sound judgments. A driver’s motor skills are also impaired, including their fine motor skills. Decreased coordination and reaction time can cause delays in reactions that increase the chances of getting into or causing an accident. When driving a car, a person must be able to see and hear what is happening on the road around them. However, alcohol causes as much as a 32 percent decrease in one’s visual acuity and impairs peripheral vision. Hearing may seem “off” or muffled. As a result, the intoxicated driver may have difficulty determining where sound is coming from. Additionally, a driver’s ability to judge distances will likely also be impaired, which can lead them into believing that there is more distance between cars than there actually is.
What is Blood Alcohol Content?
Blood alcohol content, or blood alcohol concentration, is commonly referred to as BAC. It is a term that is used when determining whether a person has had too much to drink. It is in reference to the amount, or percentage, of alcohol that is in a person’s blood. It is determined by a number of factors that includes the person’s gender, body weight, the number of drinks (of a standard variety) and the time it took for the drinks to be consumed. When a person’s BAC is high, so, too, is their level of impairment.
What is a Field Sobriety Test?
A field sobriety test is actually more than a single test. It is a series of tests that are performed at the time that a person is pulled over under the suspicion of driving while drunk. In most cases, the driver is not under arrest at the time that the tests are conducted. These tests help to determine to what degree the driver is impaired and whether the individual should be arrested. The tests require the driver to mentally and physically multi-task. Standardized field sobriety testing include a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a walk-and-turn test, and a one-leg standing test.
How to Prevent Drinking and Driving
There is no single answer when it comes to preventing drinking and driving. While the ultimate responsibility and decision not to get behind the wheel while intoxicated belongs to the individual, the efforts of others can also help to prevent it from happening. Sober friends and family can offer to drive intoxicated individuals or take their keys. Calling a taxi is another way to easily prevent someone from driving while intoxicated. Prior to drinking, people can designate a friend to remain sober and act as the designated driver for the evening or event.
What is a Breathalyzer, and What Does It Do?
Blood alcohol content can be measured either through lab work or through what is called a Breathalyzer, or breath alcohol test. The Breathalyzer is a device that was originally created in the 1950s. Today, the word is often used in reference to various devices that perform the same function. Unlike blood tests, a Breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol that is in a person’s breath. When blown into, the device measures and provides an estimate of the individual’s BAC.
What Is a Legal BAC?
In the U.S., the BAC cutoff in all states is 0.08%. When it comes to drivers who are over the age of 21 who are operating a vehicle, this is the legal limit. This limit does not, however, apply to drivers who are under the age of 21. Drivers who fall within that age group are unable to legally drive if they have consumed any amount of alcohol.
How to Prevent Injury and Death From Impaired Driving
People can take steps to prevent others from driving while they are impaired; however, this does not guarantee that the roads are or will be free of individuals who are driving while drunk. To prevent or reduce the likelihood of injury or death from impaired driving, it is important that all drivers and passengers wear their safety restraints while on the road. Drive defensively and be aware of vehicles that are being driven erratically. If a driver feels that another driver on the road is drunk, maintain a safe distance, remember the license plate number, and contact the police when it is safe to do so. Cities can set up random sobriety checkpoints to catch drunk drivers and take them off of the streets before they can cause a potentially dangerous situation.