In the U.S., someone dies in an alcohol-related crash once every 50 minutes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) writes.
Drinking and driving is extraordinarily common, and it is never safe. According to Alcohol.org, an alarming 66.27% of drivers ages 18 to 34 admit to driving after drinking some alcohol. Even more drivers ages 35 to 51 years old — or 74.88% — confess to getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. These are the stats for having a few drinks, not while driving properly drunk or intoxicated. This may put drivers at ease, but the fact of the matter is that driving after drinking any alcohol is not wholly safe. A study published in Science Daily reveals 15% of fatalities in alcohol-related crashes “involve alcohol under the legal limit” or with a BAC well-under 0.08%.
Keep your family as safe as possible by staying informed. Learn why driving after drinking any amount of alcohol is not safe, learn what can happen to you, your family, and other families on the road, and learn the best ways to practice safe driving.
The Consequences Of Drunk Driving
A BAC of just 0.05 (below the legal limit) significantly decreases your coordination and ability to detect moving objects. Driving while intoxicated can impair your vision, slow your reaction times, and increase your risks of losing control of the vehicle.
If you are in the car alone on a relatively empty road, it is still possible to spin out of control, run off the road, and hit an object, like a tree, pole, or guard rail. If you are lucky enough to be alone when it happens, you can still seriously injure yourself. Many of those who hurt their backs in a collision experience back pain, aches, and other symptoms for years to come.
A short-term hospitalization for impact injuries can involve IVs, fluids, pain medication, and catheterizations. About one in five to one in four people hospitalized will need a Foley catheter, a flexible tube that passes urine for you during your hospital stay. If you make it through hospitalization without any serious or lasting injuries, you will still have exorbitant medical bills waiting for you when you get home.
Drunk driving may pit you with heavy fines, jail time, and a suspended license as well.
How Your Actions Affect Other People (Including Your Family!)
Unfortunately, your drinking and driving does not just affect you. Your family as well as any others on the road will feel the impact of your actions as well.
Let’s start with your family. A drunk driving charge can easily stay on your record for up to 10 years and dealing with the legal fallout of these charges can be outrageously expensive. One charge can potentially put you back $10,000 to $30,000 without any injuries or injury-related settlements. That is a significant amount for most families. It’s the equivalent of purchasing a new car, in fact.
By driving drunk with family members in the car, you put their safety — and their lives — at risk. You also put any other parties on the road or very near it in jeopardy as well.
Plus, unfortunately, statistics show that your family members and those in other vehicles are actually less likely to fare well in an alcohol-related crash. Why? Not only are infants, toddlers, children, aging Americans, and very old Americans more vulnerable to injury, but people who brace themselves for impact are also more likely to get injured as well.
To break that down, first, very old Americans — and 50,000 U.S. men and women are 100 and up, the last Census reveals — are more likely to break bones and sustain serious injuries on impact. Plus, those who have not been drinking instinctively brace themselves before a crash. Unfortunately, this instinct works against us. “Think of it like catching a baseball: if you ‘soft catch’ by letting your arm bend to absorb some of the impact, it will hurt a lot less than catching it with your arm locked straight out,” The Drive writes. Of course, this is not an endorsement or recommendation to drink and drive. It is a somber reminder that you are significantly more likely to hurt others, and it is wise to think of them before getting behind the wheel.
Staying Safe On The Road
While the realities of drinking and driving are grim, it is perfectly possible to keep you and your family safe. The following safe driving practices can make all the difference:
- Take advantage of public transportation. Every day, there are roughly 26 million trips via public transportation. Thanks to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, there are more public transportation options than ever before. If you are having even just a few drinks, take public transportation instead of driving.
- Set a good example. Avoid drinking and driving, and discourage others from doing the same as well. If you get together with friends and family and you will be serving drinks, do not let them drive home drunk. Provide alternatives, like a place to stay the night, instead.
- Don’t assume you’re OK to drive. If it’s been a while and you cannot count the exact number of drinks you have had or if you feel like one or two drinks are hitting you much harder than you might expect, arrange alternative transportation. It is always best to err on the side of caution.
- Drive sober. Wear your seatbelt. Practice defensive driving, and do not text and drive!
- Studies show that driving while extremely fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving after having a few drinks. If you can barely keep your eyes open, it is not the best time to get in a vehicle.
Keeping your family safe is not a one-step process. It is an ongoing, active effort. Commit to never drink and drive to stay as safe as possible and keep your family safe, too.