Three simple ways to prevent a tragedy
• Plan ahead. If you will be drinking, do not drive. Designate a sober driver or arrange another safe way home.
• If you are impaired, find another way home. Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, or call your [insert your local sober ride program specifics here].
• Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.
For more information, visit the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Campaign Headquarters at www.nhtsa.gov/drivesober.
Drunk driving fact
Many people mistakenly assume that New Year’s Eve is the holiday responsible for the most drunk-driving accidents. Although champagne and other alcoholic drinks are often free-flowing on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve holds a distant second place to Thanksgiving for the most drunk driving-related fatalities. This is perhaps because Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and many people often feel pressure to drink more when family are around to have a good time.
Monday night is New Year’s Eve, and many area residents will ring in 2013 with a drink or two, or three.
For those who imbibe, Barton County Undersheriff Larry Holliday has some simple advice. “Be an adult about it.”
Holliday said local and area law enforcement officers will be stepping up their efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads. “Just don’t do it.”
Americans take 233 billion trips in cars each year. Of those, about one out of every two thousand trips are taken by those who are driving under the influence of alcohol. Yet, almost one out of every three traffic deaths involve drunk driving.
Every 53 minutes on average, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash (9,878 people in total in 2011), Mothers Against Driving Drunk reports. Every 90 seconds, someone is injured.
Kansas ranks 17th nationally. So far this year MADD Kansas reports there have been 108 drunk-driving related fatality accidents in the state. That is 28 percent of the total number of fatal wrecks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Many people simply do not realize how much alcohol and drugs affect one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Many more may mistakenly feel they won’t be among the many people who cause injuries to themselves or others when operating a vehicle in an impaired state. Drugs, whether they are illegal or legal, can impair a person’s motor skills, leading to accidents.
Many other accidents and fatalities can be traced back to other substances, whether legal or illegal. Using drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can be linked to roughly 20 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths in the United States. Compounding the problem is that these drugs are often used in conjunction with alcohol.
What is BAC?
BAC, or blood-alcohol concentration, measures the amount of milligrams of alcohol that is in 100 milliliters of blood. Each drink a person consumes increases his or her BAC.
The legal BAC varies all over the world. Some countries have a zero-tolerance policy, while in much of the United States the legal limit is .08 percent. That means anything more than 80 milligrams of alcohol is punishable.
But, according to the CDC, a person can still suffer side effects of alcohol consumption if their BAC is below the legal limit. Between .03 and .06 a person may experience mild euphoria, trouble concentrating, a relaxed feeling, talkativeness and decreased inhibition. Between .06 and .08, feelings may be dulled, peripheral vision can decrease, and drivers may have poorer depth perception and struggle to recover from glare.
Drugs that impair driving
Using drugs can also make it hard to safely operate a motor vehicle. Many drugs can affect the body in ways that make it dangerous to drive.
A person may not think they are driving under the influence after taking a cold or allergy pill. However, many of these pills can impair driving ability because they tend to cause drowsiness.
Drugs that act on the brain, such as psychoactive drugs, antidepressants, sleeping medications, and anti-anxiety drugs, can impair reaction time, judgment and motor skills. Most medications that can prove dangerous while driving will carry a warning label that advises against driving or operating heavy machinery.
Illegal drugs have their own share of negative effects. Research indicates that marijuana is one of the most prevalent illegal drugs detected in individuals fatally injured in driving accidents. The Emergency Medical Services Authority says marijuana can cause reduced concentration, difficulty perceiving time and distance, poor speed control, inability to read signs, drowsiness, and distraction.
Cocaine can mask fatigue and impair a person’s ability to concentrate. Impulsive behaviors can lead to risk-taking. Some research suggests that antagonistic effects can be produced when cocaine is mixed with alcohol.
The EMSA says the use of amphetamines can interfere with concentration, impair vision and increase the driver’s willingness to take risks.
It is better to err on the side of caution and avoid the use of any drugs or alcohol if you plan to be driving. No one wants to cope with the emotional, financial and legal ramifications that can occur should an accident leading to injury or fatality occur.