Top 5 Dangers Caused by Drunk Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, over 30 people die in alcohol-related wrecks every day. On average, one person dies every 45 minutes as a result of alcohol-impaired drivers. The NHTSA also reported in 2020 that drunk driving crashes claimed the lives of 11,654 individuals. While a number of organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) are making headway in their fight to end drunk driving altogether, it is still the number cause of death on the roadways.
Yet every day, there are people who drink and drive without realizing the harm it can cause. Choosing to drive while impaired by alcohol is putting others’ lives at risk as well as your own. The legal blood alcohol level in the United States is 0.08%. However, it is important to note that each person responds differently to alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects judgment, reaction time, vision, coordination, and concentration. These are all essential for safely driving a vehicle. When these and other skills are impaired by consuming alcohol, you are in danger of getting a ticket for a DUI, but there are ramifications far worse than that.
1. Drinking and Driving Inhibits Good Judgment
Consuming alcohol impairs judgment. This causes people to make decisions that they would not have made were they thinking clearly. Most of the time, when they sober up in the morning, they regret the decisions made under the influence of alcohol. Most people know it’s a bad idea to try to drive home when intoxicated. It’s an easy decision unless you have your thoughts clouded by alcohol consumption. The risk is discarded, and many choose to drive home even though they are well beyond the legal drinking limits.
This loss of judgment leaves drivers more prone to distractions while driving. For instance, you may try to watch something on your phone or try to text a friend instead of staying focused on the road. It doesn’t take a whole lot of alcohol to affect your concentration and judgment. There are a lot of things vying for your attention while you are driving. You need to stay in the right lane, pay attention to other vehicles on the road, manage your speed, and observe and obey traffic signals. Consuming alcohol significantly increases the risk of having an accident because it reduces your ability to pay attention.
To drive safely, even for short distances, you need a clear head. Drivers need to judge stopping distances and making turns without hitting objects. There are problems on the road that may require a quick reaction, such as another driver cutting you off, a sudden change in weather conditions, or debris falling off another vehicle and onto the road. You need a clear head and an alert mind to stay aware of the conditions surrounding you. Alcohol inhibits this ability.
2. Lack of Coordination and Slow Reaction Times
Consuming alcohol causes the body to react more slowly. When the reaction time is slowed, it increases the risks of an automobile accident since you won’t respond as quickly as you would without alcohol in your system. One example is when another driver cuts you off suddenly. Because your reaction time is impaired, you are more likely to hit them since you cannot think and react fast enough to hit the brakes to avoid the accident. Science Daily reported that just a small amount of alcohol was enough to increase reaction time by enough time to make operating a vehicle dangerous. Brains under the influence of alcohol take longer to process situations and react to them. Slowing reaction times means you may not be able to react fast enough should an animal run out in front of your vehicle. Worse than that, should a pedestrian step out into the road, you may not be able to react quick enough to save life or limb.
Alcohol influences reaction times, but it also slows the reflexes and affects motor skills, including foot, eye, and hand coordination. Coordination skills are crucial to driving a vehicle safely. Driving while impaired puts you and anyone in your path in danger. Because your judgment is impaired by alcohol, you may not realize your coordination is off. You may not sense that you are unable to stand up straight, are swaying while standing, or have difficulty walking. You may not notice you are having a difficult time putting the key into the ignition.
3. Alcohol Abuse Impairs Vision
Drivers need to be able to see clearly, and excessive consumption of alcohol may inhibit clear vision. Drinking often causes blurred vision and sometimes causes the eyes to move around on their own. If you only partially lose control over eye movement, it’s not safe to drive a vehicle. Vision impairment influences judging the distance between your vehicle and others on the road. Alcohol abuse can often cause the loss of peripheral vision, which is essential to safe driving. Generally, the more you drink, the more impaired your vision may become.
4. Increased Chances of Having an Accident
According to the CDC, drunk driving or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) plays a role in one out of every three vehicular deaths in the US. The problem is that even sober drivers are at risk when someone is driving impaired. Findings by the US Department of Transportation indicate that drivers with higher BACs are 7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a sober driver. Impairment begins a long time before it is noticeable and a long time before BAC hits the legal limits. Depending on a person’s gender, weight, and other factors, just a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment and vision. So, even though a person is not “legally” drunk, it doesn’t mean it is safe to drive. The only way to protect yourself and others from the consequences of drunk driving is to refrain from driving after consuming any alcohol.
5. Legal Ramifications of Drinking and Driving
Not only does drinking and driving put you and others at risk for injury or death, but you can also find yourself in hot water legally. If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI or DWI, the police officer will ask you to perform a field sobriety test. They will give you a few simple tasks to perform so they can test your motor skills and judgment capabilities. If you fail this test, you may be asked for a BAC test or a breathalyzer. Should you fail the BAC test, you are likely to end up in jail for the night, and you could be charged with a DWI or DUI. Every state has increased the penalties for drinking and driving. The penalties vary by state, but they are much worse if you cause an accident while driving drunk. The penalties are even stiffer should you cause an injury or fatality.
You may also incur numerous other financial ramifications if you are arrested for drinking and driving. Some extra costs may include towing fees, legal fines, vehicle storage fees, and attorney fees. Some states require drivers convicted of a DUI to pay for their own DUI driver training. Additionally, your insurance fees will skyrocket after a DWI arrest. It is impossible to rent a car if you have a DUI on your record, and some countries will not allow entry to individuals who have an alcohol-related driving conviction.
Final Thoughts on the Dangers of Drunk Driving
Overall, the dangers of drunk driving outweigh the reward of taking a chance on arriving home safely. Driving a vehicle safely can be difficult enough when you are sober. Drunk driving, and buzzed driving, puts your life at risk as well as anyone you share the road with. Make the right choice – don’t drive drunk.