Despite awareness campaigns throughout the country, millions of Americans choose to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2017 alone saw 10,874 deaths caused by alcohol-impaired driving. On top of this, 21.4 million Americans aged 16 and up drove under the influence of alcohol in 2017, and 12.8 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
On average, one death is caused by alcohol-impaired driving every 45 minutes. The people arrested for driving under the influence are typically repeat offenders: Drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08 are six times more likely to have a prior conviction for impaired driving.
These crashes cost Americans more than $50 billion each year, and they often occur as a failure to plan ahead. The rates of alcohol-impaired driving seem to increase during the holiday season — a time of year when many people travel to drink and be merry.
Drinking During the Holidays
Research indicates that binge drinking occurs during the holidays more than any other time of the year. Whether it’s caused by holiday traditions, pressure from others or the need to relieve stress, people tend to overindulge throughout the season of joy.
However, attending a party often means traveling, and many people don’t think ahead about how they’re going to get home after having too much to drink.
How BAC Levels Affect Driving
The effects of alcohol make driving hazardous to yourself and others on the road. Operating vehicles or any other type of heavy machinery is extremely dangerous after using drugs or alcohol. Alcohol acts as a depressant, slowing reaction times and decreasing brain activity. Drinking will impair your motor function, which causes you to have a lack of coordination. Other side effects of alcohol use include:
- reduced concentration
- decreased vision
- impaired judgment, which makes you more willing to participate in risky behavior.
Your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, indicates how much alcohol is present in a person’s blood. As someone drinks alcohol, their BAC rises. In most states, a person is considered legally intoxicated if their BAC is 0.08% or higher. A person can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) if they are legally intoxicated, but they can still get a DUI even if their BAC is lower than 0.08%.
Here’s how BAC can affect you:
- At 0.02%, your visual function is declining and you’re losing the ability to perform tasks simultaneously
- At 0.05%, you have reduced coordination, steering ability and response time
- At 0.08%, your perception is impaired and you have poor coordination, speed control and concentration
- At 0.10%, you have a difficult time staying in your lane and braking properly
Drunk Driving Arrests by State
According to a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nebraska and Montana had the highest rates of intoxicated drivers. In these states, 3.4% of adults reported driving while intoxicated within the past month. On the opposite end, Utah had the lowest rate in the country, which was 0.7%.
Between 2003 and 2012, there were 119,100 deaths caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. Of these deaths, Texas drivers accounted for 13,138 and California drivers accounted for 10,327. However, South Dakota had the highest rate of DUI arrests at 721.93 DUIs per 100,000 people.
The Consequences of Driving Drunk
Driving under the influence can easily lead to many severe consequences. Aside from the effects on your mental health, consequences include:
- Injury or death of yourself and others
- Getting arrested for DUI
- Being sentenced to prison or probation
- Losing your driver’s license
- Paying expensive fines
- Installing an interlock system on your vehicle
- Attending drunk driving school or community service
If you find it difficult to control your alcohol use and you drive while under the influence, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can help you find lifelong recovery.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2017 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview.” October 2018. Accessed December 10, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drugged Driving.” March 2019. Accessed December 10, 2019.
AAA DUI Justice Link. “Get the Truth.” (n.d.). Accessed December 10, 2019.
Newhart, Beth. “Americans double their drinking during the holidays.” Beverage Daily, December 19, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2019.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Drunk Driving.” (n.d.). Accessed December 10, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drunk Driving State Data and Maps.” March 28, 2016. Accessed December 10, 2019.
Wilson, Trent. “Which States Have the Worst DUI Problems.” Background Checks, (n.d.). Accessed December 10, 2019.