Over 16,000 Americans die each year in alcohol-related accidents. In case you don’t already know this—drinking and driving are a deadly combination. No matter your age, your driving experience, or your perceived alcohol tolerance, deciding to get behind the wheel after a few drinks is irreparably ignorant. See for yourself:
- Sixty percent of all accidents involving drivers aged 16 to 24 were caused by alcohol.
- One person is killed every half hour by drunk driving.
- Over 1.5 million people are arrested each year on DWI charges.
Even if you do not drink and drive yourself, you have a one-in-three chance of being involved in an alcohol-related accident each year.
There is no excuse, delusion, or magical spell that can keep you safe from the consequences of a drunk driver accident. Once you make that decision, you put yourself and any other driver or pedestrian that comes in contact with you at risk. So, the easiest decision to make about drinking and driving is “just don't do it.”
Knowing Your Limits to Determine If You Can Drive
If you drink on a regular basis, you may be able to gauge your tolerance level and know when to quit before it’s too late. However, if you don’t know or misjudge your tolerance, overdo it, become unsure of your sobriety, or are merely trying to plan ahead, there are ways to safely and effectively prevent an accident. These include:
- Knowing the facts. The alcohol content of a can of beer, one glass of wine, or one mixed drink with liquor is approximately the same. Realize that alcohol impairs your driving even at low levels, and the fatal crash risk associated with a blood alcohol content of .06 is already eight times higher than if you have no alcohol in your blood. The effect of alcohol is compounded when taken with drugs—even legal prescription medications—and when fatigued.
- Eating food while you drink. Food, especially high-protein food like meat, cheese, and nuts, helps slow the absorption of alcohol in your body, while carbohydrates can help absorb alcohol out of your bloodstream.
- Sipping your drink. Instead of slamming back copious amounts of cheap liquor so you don’t have to taste it, go for a better quality drink and savor the flavor. Sipping will allow the alcohol to metabolize over a longer period of time, reducing your risk of getting drunk.
- Controlling your drinks. You decide when and what to drink. If your glass is refilled every four minutes, leave it full. Ask for water or non-alcoholic beverage to drink in between your wine or beer. You should stick to no more than one alcoholic drink per hour.
- Moving around. Just sitting and drinking is not going to lead you anywhere. Engage with other people, go for food rather than alcohol, go outside, or for a short walk.
- Staying aware. Look at what alcohol does to others. If you drink moderately, you will soon notice, after a couple of hours, how the other people's behavior changes, and how their speech becomes slurred. Think of what these changes might do to their driving ability.
- Planning ahead. If you know that you will be drinking, you should make prior arrangements for how you are going to get home. This may include calling a cab, a friend, or a family member. A good idea is to have a cab company’s phone number pre-programmed into your phone. You will be more inclined to call a cab knowing the number is handy.
- Getting help. If you have a drinking problem, you can get help. Organizations like the American Automobile Association have programs available to get you home safely and help you fight the problem of drinking while driving. Do not hesitate to contact them.
The unfortunate reality is that whenever you are in a car, you run the risk of sharing the road with a driver who is impaired by alcohol. However, by being smart, paying attention, and planning ahead, you can safeguard yourself from causing an accident and be more prepared to avoid a drunk driver.