The Dangers of Drinking and Driving and Ways to Help Minimize Drunk Driving Crashes

prevent drunk driving this holiday seasonIt’s a sad fact, but 29 people a day die as a result of drunk driving crashes. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this equates to one person every 50 minutes. And according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), every two minutes a person is injured by a drunk driver. These deaths and injuries affect hundreds of thousands of people every year in this nation and what’s sad is that they are absolutely preventable.

Although there had been a decrease in drunk driving fatalities over the past few years, drunk driving deaths actually increased by 1.7 percent in 2016—indicating drunk driving is still a huge problem. In fact, drunk driving claimed 10,497 lives last year on our nation’s roads, according to NHTSA.

Drunk Driving Statistics Where We Live

Drunk driving fatalities in our area of the country also increased in 2016. In Virginia, 29% of traffic fatalities were the result of drunk drivers—claiming 220 lives—compared to 206 deaths in 2015 (up 14%). In the District of Columbia, even though it had the lowest alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities of any state in the nation (10), there was also an increase—up from six deaths in 2015, which was a 66.7% increase in alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, according to NHTSA.

Driving After Drinking

As you can see from the statistics, drinking and driving don’t mix. Not only is it illegal for a person to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, but even a small amount of alcohol can increases one’s crash risk. In fact, people are injured or killed in alcohol-related crashes when drivers’ BACs were under .08. Because alcohol is a substance that alters the function of the brain, it reduces one’s ability to think and use sound judgment—making it difficult to safely operate a moving motor vehicle.

The effects of blood alcohol concentration on driving, according to NHTSA, are as follows:

  • .02 BAC – Drivers typically feel relaxed, have an altered mood, experience some loss of judgment, have a reduced ability to do more than one thing at the same time, and have a hard time visually tracking moving objects.
  • .05 BAC – Drivers generally “feel good” but have a hard time focusing their eyes and tracking moving objects. They may have a difficult time steering due to reduced coordination, and they have a lowered alertness and may react slowly in an emergency situation.
  • .08 BAC – At this point, drivers typically have problems walking, balancing, speaking, hearing, and seeing normally. They even have a hard time reacting, reasoning, and concentrating. This can make it hard for them to detect danger and process information.

When drivers are impaired, they have a difficult time staying in their lanes, controlling speed, and reacting appropriately in different situations on the road. Because driving after drinking still occurs, it is important that we remind our readers about one of the most dangerous time of the year—the holidays. Some of the most dangerous days on the roads occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Drinking Around the Holidays

With the holiday season right around the corner—from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s Day—it is important to stay safe on the roads as alcohol-related accidents spike during this time, according to MADD. Here’s what you can do:

  • Celebrate smart. It is a known fact that many people go to parties during the holidays and consume alcohol. If you know you are going to drink, plan an alternative way to get home before you go to the party. You can designate a driver or plan to take an Uber or get another ride home.
  • Do not let someone you know drive buzzed or drunk. If you see a co-worker, family member or friend attempt to leave a gathering and you know they are not sober, please say something to them and arrange a ride home.
  • Tie One On For Safety. During the holiday period, between November 1st and December 31st, display a visible red ribbon on your vehicle to remind others to designate a sober driver.
  • Contact law enforcement if you see a driver on the road who seems impaired and at risk for crashing. You never know, you may save a life just by making a phone call.

Help us spread the word about the dangers of drinking and driving and remind drivers to drive sober this holiday season (and the rest of the year). By sharing this blog on your favorite social media site, you will help make the roads a safer place.

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