Through nationwide efforts such as the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” awareness campaign, many Americans are reminded to avoid driving while impaired. Unfortunately, even with the number of messages visible through billboards, posters and other advertisements, many people still choose to drive after using drugs or alcohol.
The holiday season is described as one of the deadliest and most dangerous times for drivers and passengers due to the increased number of people who drive while impaired. In an effort to combat these risks, National Impaired Driving Prevention Month occurs each December to remind people why they shouldn’t risk their lives or the lives of others by driving under the influence.
Preventing impaired driving requires making a decision before substance use begins. There are many ways to avoid impaired driving, and these options are much easier to implement than you might think. National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is the perfect time to learn how to be proactive before attending your holiday gatherings.
How to Avoid Impaired Decision-Making Moments
Though substances can cause people to make poor choices, there are ways to plan ahead and reduce potential risks. People can be proactive by understanding the dangers of impaired driving and preventing themselves (and others) from driving while intoxicated. If you know that you or others will be using substances, here are a few ways to ensure everyone stays out of the driver’s seat.
Schedule a Ride From Uber, Lyft or a Taxi
Smartphone apps have made it much easier to avoid driving. Within seconds, people can request an Uber or Lyft to take them anywhere they need. These apps also allow people to schedule rides days in advance. The pickup time is a 10- or 15-minute window, depending on the app. Taxicab companies also provide these same services.
If you are going to an event where alcohol or drugs will be available, consider scheduling a Lyft or Uber for whenever you want to head home. Do the same if you are taking a prescription drug and need to run an errand or go to an event soon after using the medication. Deciding how you’ll commute and adjusting your plans while still sober is intelligent and responsible.
Make Plans for a Sober Driver
For a group of friends who are going out drinking, one of the most popular plans is to designate someone as a sober driver. This person enjoys the night sober to ensure the safety of themselves and their friends. Handling this role might seem unexciting, but doing so can save lives.
If you drive yourself to a social gathering, reach out to someone before you begin drinking and see if they can provide you a ride to your next destination. Establishing a sober driver ahead of time is another example of being proactive and making an unimpaired decision.
Give Your Keys to a Friend
Before you begin drinking alcohol, hand your car keys to a trusted friend who will remain sober. Ask them to hold onto your keys until they are certain that you’re sober enough to drive. Doing so ensures that you will manage your substance use or find alternative transportation to your next destination.
If you are the sober one and your friend is impaired, do the same courtesy for them. Request that you hold onto their keys, even if it aggravates your friend. The alternative is much worse — they could drive impaired and potentially hurt themselves or others.
Why Do People Drive Drunk?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,874 deaths caused by alcohol-impaired driving in 2017. In addition, 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.
Even if the statistics suggest otherwise, many teenagers and adults do understand the risks associated with impaired driving. They also know that impaired driving is one of the leading causes of deaths, that it is illegal, and that they can still be arrested even if they don’t get into an accident. However, many of these same people will still drive after having a few drinks.
Some of the reasons these people get behind the wheel after using substances include:
- Being unaware of how impaired they are
- Believing they can safely drive despite their impairment
- Thinking they will not get caught by law enforcement
- Not wanting to leave their vehicle overnight at an unusual location, or the inconvenience of having to get it the next day
- Wanting to be somewhere by a specific time, or to return home immediately
All of these reasons are influenced by the impaired decision-making skills caused by substance use. When someone is sober, they understand that impaired driving is a poor decision and be able to think logically about why they shouldn’t drive impaired. When that same person is impaired, they might have a different perspective or thought process that leads to driving under the influence.
Recognizing When a Substance Use Disorder Is Present
If choosing whether to drive impaired is a frequent decision for you or a loved one, then a deeper issue might be present. Regularly being too drunk or impaired to make sensible decisions about safety can be a sign of a substance use disorder. Some people have a physical or psychological dependence on substances and can spend large parts of their days affected by drugs or alcohol, which can make it difficult to travel unless they drive impaired.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” (n.d.). Accessed December 6, 2019.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2017 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview.” October 2018. Accessed December 6, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drugged Driving.” March 2019. Accessed December 6, 2019.