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Avoiding the Temptation to Drink & Drive

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association or NHTSA, a fatal traffic accident related to alcohol occurs in the U.S. approximately every half hour. Non-fatal injured related to alcohol occur approximately every two minutes. Drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are also involved in approximately eighteen percent of driver fatalities. This is a very sobering thought, and you may be asking yourself what you can do to ensure you and your family remains safe while driving. Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
The Truth About Alcohol
You are probably already aware of the myth that exercise, a cold shower, breathing fresh air or performing exercise will quickly sober you up after an evening of drinking alcohol. Another common misconception is that eating food will prevent you from becoming drunk because it will soak up all of the alcohol. However, the truth is that absolutely none of these methods work to keep you sober or to help you lower your blood alcohol level.
Time is the only way to become sober, and you require approximately one hour for every alcoholic drink if you are a man and longer if you are a woman. Most women need a longer time period in order to metabolize the alcohol in their system. The reason is that most women experience a limited production of alcohol dehydrogenase which metabolizes alcohol, and they have a smaller body size than most men.
An alcoholic drink can consist of a bottle of light or regular beer, a glass of wine or a shot of hard liquor. Many of the mixed drinks that are served at bars and parties are actually several drinks combined. Most drivers don’t realize how little alcohol needs to be consumed to impair their driving ability. In fact, having as little as three drinks over a two-hour time period may be enough for your blood alcohol level to surpass the legal limit. This can make you a danger to yourself and others if you decide to get behind the wheel before sobering up.
Alcohol’s Dangerous Effects
Drinking alcoholic beverages can cause you to act much differently than you would sober. You have probably seen intoxicated individuals acting more childish or downright ridiculous to becoming more playful or affectionate. However, you may not be aware that alcohol will also significantly slow down your reaction time.
Many of your senses, systems and organs within your body are affected when you drink any type of alcohol. For example, alcohol impairs your vision by making it more difficult to focus back and forth from nearby or distant images. Alcohol also relaxes the eyes’ muscles which can cause blurred vision – a condition that can be fatal when you are driving. By impairing eye coordination, alcohol can alter your ability to calculate depth perception accurately and cause double vision. The perception of color, night vision and your peripheral vision also become impaired whenever you drink alcoholic beverages.
This results in drunk drivers who fail to pay sufficient attention to detail or comprehend road situations quickly or efficiently enough while driving. You will also experience much slower reflexes when you have been drinking alcohol; this can affect your ability to brake quickly enough, control the accelerator or turn the wheel to maneuver a corner or to an avoid an unexpected obstacle on the road. As you can see, drinking alcohol before you get behind the wheel endangers yourself and everyone else who shares the road with you.
Legal Changes
Every single state in the United States is focusing on solutions to overcome the problem of driving while under the influence. The country’s legal limit for blood alcohol has been lowered to 0.08 percent, and penalties are currently much more severe if you are caught driving while impaired. These are all efforts to lower the number of serious traffic accident injuries and deaths related to alcohol.
Despite all of the legal penalties, social efforts and improved education efforts, one out of every seven drivers is still considered legally impaired during the hours of 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM on weekends. It’s imperative that we continue our efforts to prevent drivers from driving while under the influence to keep everyone safe on the road.
Steps You Can Take to Avoid Driving Impaired
Plan Ahead
One of the most important steps you can take is to avoid the temptation to drive if you have been drinking alcohol. To make this task easier, it’s wise to arrange to be brought home by taxi or with another individual who is sober, make arrangements to stay the night at the place where you will be drinking or ensure a designated driver is available to take you home safely at the end of the evening. Many pubs and bars also provide free non-alcoholic beverages to any designed driver to encourage the safe practice. Another option is to take turns with you and your friends so you don’t end up being the designated driver for every event or night out.
Call A Friend or Taxi
If you end up drinking too much alcohol unexpectedly, be sure to contact a close friend or family member to request a ride home or call a local taxi company. Certain cities may even provide a free taxi ride to intoxicated drivers who have enough wisdom to avoid driving while under the influence.
Create A Social Environment That Discourages Drinking & Driving
Fostering a social environment that does not encourage drinking and driving is another important step you can take to become a safer driver. Never permit anyone you know, including friends, family member or colleagues to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking alcohol. Better yet, volunteer to become a designated driver so there will be no temptation for anyone to drive drunk.
Do Your Part As Host Of An Event
If you are the host of a party or event, make sure you provide lots of non-alcoholic beverages as well. You can also take the keys from everyone at the beginning of the evening so you are guaranteed that nobody can drive home while intoxicated. It is your responsibility to prevent others from driving while under the influence, and this applies whether you are hosting a weekend party or merely enjoying a pint with some friends after work.
Educate Your Children
Another important element to ensure unsafe drivers remain off the road is to educate your children about the dangers of drinking and driving. Discuss the situation with any teenagers in your household who may be learning to drive and make sure they know that they should never accept a ride from someone who has been drinking or get behind the wheel while drinking.
You should also make it very clear that you are always available to pick them up and drive them home safely if they phone you after an evening of drinking. Although being woken up in the middle of the night with a ride request may be inconvenient, it could end up saving the life of your child or others on the road.
Both adults and teenagers alike need to educate themselves about the dangers of driving while under the influence. If we work hard to foster an environment where drinking and driving becomes socially unacceptable, the roads will become safer for everyone. The number of injuries and deaths related to impaired driving will also drop.


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