While most people may associate December with the holidays, for the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration it means Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month. Actually, the two do go hand-in-hand, as many people celebrate at holiday festivities with alcoholic drinks, and many people travel by car to visit family this time of year. Before you hit the road, know that police use this month to crack down on drunk and drugged drivers.
Drinking and Driving
Nothing will put a damper on your holiday season faster than a DUI or having your license revoked. DUI’s can be very costly, and many budgets are already stretched tight for holiday gift buying. This is also a busy time of year for people between parties and family gatherings, and the lack of a driver’s license can be a major inconvenience.
In the U.S. a driver is considered impaired if his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a 0.08. BAC is the percentage of alcohol found in the bloodstream of the driver. A 1.5 oz shot of liquor, a 12 oz bottle of beer, and a 5 oz glass of wine all contain approximately the same amount of alcohol at 0.6 oz.
The charts below can be used as a guideline for how many drinks you can have before you are at the legal limit. Women are more easily affected by alcohol than men, and your overall body weight is an important factor as well. Keep in mind these are just guidelines. Many other factors can contribute to a higher BAC, such as how much you have eaten prior to drinking, or if the bartender is pouring more than the standard amount.
For every 40 minutes after you stop drinking, subtract ~0.01 from the estimated BAC
As you can see, the rules are clearly not the same for everyone. A 240 pound man can have four drinks and may legally still be able to drive, while a 90 pound woman would be well over the legal limit after just two drinks. Statistics have also shown that at every level of blood alcohol concentration, the risk of a crash is higher for young people.
Nearly one-third of traffic related fatalities are caused by alcohol-impaired driving crashes. This means that if no one got behind the wheel while drunk, one out of three people who have died from traffic crashes could still be with us today. It is easy to read and report statistics, but the people who have lost loved one these are much more than statistics. Especially around the holidays, consider other people and families before getting behind the wheel. Drinking and driving is simply not worth the risk.
Drugged driving does not refer to someone slipping something in your drink, but rather driving under the influence of drugs. Even prescribed drugs or legally prescribed medicinal marijuana can impair your ability to drive. It is even more dangerous to combine any type of drug with alcohol. If you have any prescriptions, be sure to read all side effects and warnings before drinking or driving. Some drugs may cause drowsiness on their own and will advise against operating heavy machinery or combining with alcohol. It is very important to heed these warnings.
According to StopDruggedDriving.org, 20% of crashes in the country are caused by drivers under the influence of drugs. Drugged drivers cause approximately 440,000 injuries, 6,761 deaths, and $59.9 billion in damages per year.
Many states have adopted a per se standard of drugged driving. This means that if any detectable amount of a controlled substance is found in the driver’s system, other than legally prescribed medicine, the driver will be at fault for drugged driving. This is different from the standard for drunk driving, as drivers are permitted to have a small amount of alcohol in their system and still drive. If a driver in one of the states with the per se standard is found to have any trace of an illegal substance in their bodily fluids they are considered to be Driving While Intoxicated.
The states with a per se standard for drugged driving are: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Celebrate Safely and Arrive Alive
Of course many people like to sip on egg nog, spiked cider, and other alcoholic drinks during the holidays. As long as you plan ahead and refrain from illegal drug use, you can have all the holiday fun you want in a way that doesn’t endanger your life or the lives of others. If you have any prescriptions, be sure you check the side effects and whether it is ok to consume alcohol while taking them. If you do consume, be sure to have a designated driver or at the very least stop drinking well before you plan to leave using the chart above as a guideline. If possible, stay over at the place where you are drinking, since police officers are on high alert during National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month.