A Missouri Sheriff Reminds us of the Dangers of Impaired Driving
Sheriff Brad Cole
Christian County, Missouri
National Sheriff’s Association
Traffic Safety Committee Vice Chair
Driving under the influence is a huge problem in our country. In the United States, almost 30 people die every day in crashes that involve a driver impaired by alcohol. That’s at least one death an hour. There are over 100 million self-reported instances of alcohol-impaired driving every year, and over a million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. A third of all fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated person. Most incidents involved alcohol, but other drugs are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle deaths. The cost of these crashes reaches into the tens of billions each year.
What constitutes drunk driving is standard across the country. Every state in the U.S. has adopted .08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration) as the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle for adults 21 and over. If you’re under 21, you are not allowed to drive with any level of alcohol in your system.
Even though the legal amount is .08% BAC, smaller amounts of alcohol can still impact driving ability. At a BAC of .02, a person’s visual functioning declines and ability to multitask is hampered. Judgment is impaired and they may be too relaxed. At a BAC of .05, eye movement, reaction time, and information processing are all slowed. You may have difficulty steering and be less coordinated. At a BAC of .08, your reasoning and perception are highly impaired. You might not be able to control the speed of the vehicle and your reaction time and vision can also be poor.
It can be difficult to assess how much alcohol puts you above the legal limit. Factors such as medication, weight, gender, body type, and food intake can all affect your ability to pass a blood alcohol test. So, if you’re wondering how many drinks you can have and legally drive, the best and safest answer is zero.
Never plan on your ability to make wise decisions when intoxicated. That’s why it’s best to plan ahead and remove any chance of driving with a BAC. Let’s look at a few safe and easy options to prevent drunk driving and plan ahead.
Find your designated driver. Designate a driver who will not drink before you go out. Never assume that someone will volunteer, and make sure that you don’t put all the responsibility on the same person every time. If you feel guilty, offer to buy their dinner or to pay for gas. If you’re going out by yourself or don’t have a ride home, then prearrange a ride beforehand. Set an alarm on your phone to call a friend or hire a ride home.
Hold each other accountable. When you do go out with friends, coworkers, or family, plan with friends to hold each other accountable. Encourage each other to drink water in between alcoholic beverages. If they’ve been drinking, take their keys away from them. Call a cab or offer to give them a ride to pick their car up in the morning.
Be a responsible host. If you’re hosting your own gathering, offer nonalcoholic beverages and make sure everyone has a safe ride home. Monitor your own drinking to ensure that you help guests make safe choices. By being responsible, you can model that you don’t have to drink excessively or at all to have a good time.
Plan alcohol-free activities. Plan activities with friends and family that don’t always involve drinking. Whether it’s being active, enjoying good conversation, exploring a new place, or visiting your favorite spot, you don’t need alcohol to make the evening a memorable one. You’ll save money, you’ll feel energized the next day, and you’ll be sure to make it home safely.