• Addiction & recovery

Dangers of Impaired Driving

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Jordan Kadish

December 6, 2022

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We often associate December with festive fun and celebrating the holidays with friends and family. Something often forgotten is that December is also National Impaired Driving Awareness Month, for a good reason. In 2019, The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reported that during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, 210 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes [1]. 

Over 10,000 lives are lost each year to impaired driving-related causes, and the number has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic [2]. These statistics are incredibly alarming and are 100% preventable if nobody were to drive while under the influence. National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is a reminder to help decrease the number of impaired driving-related deaths by only driving completely sober, helping others get home safe, and supporting people experiencing Substance Use Disorder (SUD) before mistakes like impaired driving are made.

What causes impaired driving?

Impaired driving—also known as drunk driving and buzzed driving—refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC, over or equal to .08%) [3]. “Distracted driving” and “drowsy driving” also fall into the category of impaired driving. Except they involve texting or falling asleep at the wheel rather than using substances. All kinds of impaired driving are hazardous and account for about ⅓ of all driving fatalities [4].

It’s fair to assume that most people do not want to hurt others intentionally. But if most people know driving under the influence or while distracted is dangerous, why do so many participate in it? There are many potential causes of impaired driving:

  • Impaired Judgment: Drugs and alcohol alter your perceptions of yourself and the world around you [5]. Because of this, you may likely perceive yourself as not intoxicated when you are. This can cause you to make irresponsible decisions that you would never have made sober.
  • Embarrassment or Denial: People may feel embarrassed to admit they got too intoxicated during a night out. They may deny that they are too intoxicated to drive safely and resort to impaired driving rather than asking a friend for a ride or calling a ride service.
  • False Sense of Security: Some drugs and alcohol increase dopamine levels in the brain. This gives you a confidence boost [6] and increases the risk of feeling a false sense of security about your safety while driving impaired.

 

Dangers of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol:

There are numerous dangers of driving under the influence. For one, car accidents can cause catastrophic consequences to one’s health, both physical and mental. Every day, 30 people in the United States die from an impaired driving-related accident [7]. Another 290,000 people faced severe injuries due to impaired driving-related accidents in 2020 [8]. Being involved in motor vehicle accidents, whether physically injured or not, can significantly increase mental health-related issues like anxiety and trauma [9].

Less obvious consequences of impaired driving are the financial ramifications that car accidents can cause. The annual cost of drunk driving-related car crashes is 44 billion [10]. Even for first-time offenders, being convicted of a DUI or DWI can cost them about $24,000, not including the costs of injuries or damages [11]. This is a huge financial burden.

An infographic showing the affects of Blood Alcohol Concentration on driving

How can you help prevent impaired driving?

There are many ways you can help prevent impaired driving, both personally and interpersonally. Now that you know how serious and prevalent this act is, here are a few ways you can get involved:

  1. When going out with friends, decide who will be the designated driver before anyone begins using any substances.
  2. Download a ride service app on your phone, like Uber or Lyft. Use this service if you need a ride home after using substances.
  3. Never get into a car when the driver has been using substances.
  4. Do not let friends—or anyone—drive home intoxicated. Call them a ride and even take their keys if you need to. They may be annoyed, but you could be saving their life.
  5. If you are hosting a party where substances are present, take it as your responsibility that everyone has a safe way to get home. 
  6. If you are a parent or caregiver, educate children on the dangers of impaired driving. Make sure they know they should never hesitate to call you for a ride. Ask them to sign a safe-driving pledge.
  7. If you suspect that someone is driving under the influence, call 911 immediately. Provide them with a license plate number, location, and description of the vehicle. By doing this, you could be saving multiple lives. 
  8. If you feel that you or someone you know may have a dependency on alcohol or substance use, reach out for help!

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in LouisianaMassachusettsNorth CarolinaNew JerseyOhioTexas, and Washington.

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