istock_55457298_large-2_facebookI am a reserve officer for a local police department and work primarily in its Traffic Division. Working in this capacity, I have seen some bad accidents and, unfortunately, most of the time it involves the misuse of alcohol or another substance. Since we are heading into the holiday season, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some facts and misconceptions about alcohol and its effects on driving.

A big misconception is that impairment is not based upon the type of alcohol consumed, but rather the number of drinks over a period of time. Despite myths and misconceptions, coffee, a cold shower, or exercise will not make a person more sober, only time will.

On average, a person will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest. In most cases, the driver is arrested because of an accident. Every 51 minutes in the U.S., someone is killed by an alcohol-impaired driver. That equates to 28 people every day. The impaired driver usually survives while the people he or she hits do not because an impaired driver does not react the same way a sober driver does at the time of impact.

For drivers under 21, the U.S. has zero tolerance laws that do not allow any alcohol to be in the blood system while behind the wheel. The consequences could include expensive fines, loss of license, or jail. This is also compounded by the fact that kids and teens who get involved with alcohol at a young age are seven times more likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lives.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and roughly 1/3 of these accidents involve alcohol or another substance. This is particularly higher in states that have made marijuana legal. There is a misconception among the general public that it’s alright to use a substance while driving just because it’s legal.

At the end of the day, just don’t drink and drive. You may “feel” okay but your blood alcohol content may say otherwise. The financial, physical, and emotional costs are just not worth the risk. Instead, offer to be a designated driver to make sure that everyone gets home safe.

Source: Centers for Disease Control. “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults — United States, 2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. October 4, 2011

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