Driving and alcohol don’t mix, and sharing facts about impaired driving is a great way to encourage our loved ones to drive safely and avoid any costly, long-term repercussions. Here’s a conversation starter to use that perfectly illustrates why drunk driving is bad: Roughly one alcohol-related driving fatality occurs every 50 minutes in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). For those who have wondered how to prevent drinking and driving, we’re looking at how much alcohol can hamper your driving skills, how much damage impaired-driving crashes cause annually, alternatives to drinking and driving, and more.
How Does Alcohol Affect My Driving Ability?
We all know drinking and driving is illegal, and for a good reason. Alcohol impairs our driving ability by decreasing our reaction time, worsening our visual function, and disrupting our ability to make sound judgments. But how much alcohol does it take to start feeling the effects? Not as much as many people might believe, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
After only two beverages, people can expect to see a decline in their driving ability which goes hand in hand with their rising blood alcohol concentration (BAC). With every passing drink, the effects on the body become even more noticeable, and driving skills can seriously decline before going over the legal limit. So, even if you’re only feeling a little bit buzzed, it’s better to play it safe. Come up with some strategies to avoid drinking and driving and make sure you get home without any issues.
Ways to Prevent Drinking and Driving
Thankfully, there are plenty of options to get to your desired destination after you’ve been drinking. Here are seven ways to prevent drunk driving and get where you want to go.
- Public transportation: If you live in a city with a reliable public transportation system, hop on the bus or train to dodge a DUI. Just double-check the hours of operation and nearby stops to make sure it’s a realistic option for your plans.
- Sober or safe ride program near you: Search for a region, city, or state-specific program near you, like Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s SoberRide©.
- Rideshare apps: Chances are, you’ve heard of or used Uber and Lyft to get around. Download them or another rideshare app to get home safely.
- Taxis: They might not get talked about as much today, but yes, taxis still exist in cities around the country. Search for cab companies near you to find a ride or try to flag one down from the sidewalk.
- Pay someone in your group to drive: Have a friend that doesn’t drink? Or one that is willing not to drink for the night in exchange for a few dollars? A designated driver can help ensure everyone gets home safe. They can always have a mocktailso they don’t feel left out of the evening’s festivities!
- A friend or relative: Other options taking too long? See if a nearby friend or relative can pick you up.
- Walk: If you’re not going far and you’re in a safe area, consider walking to your destination.
- Spend the night: If you have a designated driver but live far away from their home, ask if you can spend the night. Or, if there’s a hotel within walking distance, consider staying the night there. It might cost a bit extra, but your safety is worth it. Perhaps you can even share a room with your friends and split the cost.
How long should you wait to drive after drinking?
As we discussed above, just a small amount of alcohol can hamper your driving ability, and everyone’s body processes alcohol differently. So, there’s no guaranteed way to drink and stay under the limit. However, a general rule of thumb is that your body can process approximately one ounce of liquor each hour, according to Healthline. This means the average individual needs to wait at least an hour for each standard drink they consume.
It’s worth noting that drinks aren’t created equal, though. Some are much stronger than others, meaning you shouldn’t trust general guidelines and get behind the wheel of a car. Even if you’re only planning to have a few drinks, make sure to have a plan to get home that doesn’t involve you driving.
Impaired Driving Statistics: How Costly Is It?
We know drunk driving is dangerous, but just how costly is it in terms of lives lost and damage caused? Well, the data from the NHTSA is sobering.
In 2016 alone, 10,497 individuals died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. That figure represents 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. during the same timeframe. Even in crashes where nobody dies, the injuries and property damage are often severe. In fact, the NHTSA estimates the total economic cost for alcohol-impaired accidents was roughly $44 billion in the U.S. in 2010, the most recent year with data available.
How Can You Spot a Drunk Driver?
Think you might be witnessing someone driving under the influence? Here are some telltale drunk driving behaviors, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):
- Rapidly accelerating or decelerating
- Tailgating other vehicles
- Weaving through traffic
- Drifting in and out of a lane
- Abrupt turning, swerving, or stopping
- Delayed response to traffic signals
- Almost hitting any other cars, objects, or curbs
- Driving well under the speed limit
- Driving where they shouldn’t be (sidewalks, into oncoming traffic, etc.)
How Do Police Officers Spot Drunk Drivers?
Police look for many of the careless behaviors listed above. When they pull someone over (or at DUI checkpoints), they can also look for bloodshot eyes, see if they can smell alcohol, and can listen for slurred speech. If they suspect the driver is intoxicated, they may perform a sobriety test or a breathalyzer test.
What Should You Do If You See Someone Driving Drunk?
If you suspect someone is driving drunk, here’s what you should do, according to MADD.
- Stay away from the vehicle. If someone is driving erratically, you don’t want to get too close. They might swerve and hit you or suddenly stop.
- Look for identifying information about the vehicle from a safe distance. If you can determine the license plate or the car’s make, model, and color, that will be helpful.
- Call the police. Give the experts your location, the direction the vehicle is traveling, and any identifying information you could gather. They’re trained to handle these scenarios.
What are the Consequences of Drunk Driving?
While every state has its own driving laws, you can bet that the cost of getting caught driving drunk is much higher than you’re willing to pay. While it depends on the state you live in and if it’s your first offense, here are some things you can potentially expect after DUI/DWI charge:
- Steep fines
- Driver’s license suspension
- Possible jail time
- Higher insurance costs by being pushed into a high-risk category
- Being forced to keep particular documents on file with your state (SR-22/FR-44 or similar)
- Participation in a “DUI school”
U.S. News interviewed several experts who estimated that with insurance fees, attorney fees, and fines, you could be spending more than $10,000 for a DUI depending on your specific circumstance. And this doesn’t begin to address the financial cost and the inconvenience of getting around without a license. Also, don’t forget about additional expenses, like paying to reinstate your license or installing an ignition interlock device. So, once all the dust settles, the real cost of a DUI is likely much higher than many people think.
Do Drugs Play a Major Role in Impaired Driving Crashes?
So much attention is devoted to alcohol’s role in impaired driving crashes, but what about drugs? The CDC notes that drugs (both legal and illegal) are involved in approximately 16% of motor vehicle crashes. In other words, it’s essential to be careful when using any substance that could impair your ability to drive a vehicle, even over-the-counter or prescription medication.
Can I Get Affordable Car Insurance with a DUI/DWI on my Record?
Worried that a DUI will prevent you from finding affordable car insurance? Don’t worry; you can still find budget-friendly high-risk auto coverage.
What is high-risk auto insurance?
Before they agree to provide coverage, insurance companies try to determine how risky it would be to insure any individual. If you’ve had lapses in coverage, been convicted of a DUI/DWI, received multiple speeding tickets, or anything else that would make you ‘riskier’ than the average person, insurers consider you a high-risk driver. High-risk drivers typically need to search for non-standard or high-risk auto insurance.
What If I Need an SR-22, FR-44, or Similar Form?
Are you worried that being required to keep an SR-22, FR-44, or a comparable document on file with your state will prevent you from finding coverage? Fear no more! High-risk insurers, like Direct Auto, can walk you through the process and help you find an appropriate policy for the lowest price possible.
Can I Find Quality, Affordable Coverage as a High-Risk Driver?
Some insurance companies are only interested in insuring individuals with near-perfect driving records. So, you’ll need to find a company that is willing to work with you.
But there is good news! Direct Auto is one of these companies! We will help you get all the discounts and savings you’re entitled to, making your coverage as affordable as possible. Give us a call or stop by one of our locations to get a free quote.