The Dangers of Driving While Drunk

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at Cliffside Malibu.

Every day, an average of 29 people die in car accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Drunk driving campaigns such as Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving or Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over were created to help communities understand that drunk driving is dangerous and recognize the consequences of driving drunk.

Despite it being illegal, drunk driving continues to be an ongoing issue. Driving under the influence of alcohol, and most other drugs, inhibits an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. It is important to become educated about the effects that alcohol has on the brain and body and how it significantly impairs an individual’s ability to drive.

How Alcohol Affects The Brain

Alcohol impairs nearly all brain areas. It interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and makes it difficult to carry out specific functions, including:

  • Motor coordination and balance
  • Memory
  • Speech
  • Reasoning
  • Judgment

An individual’s alcohol level is measured by the amount of alcohol present in a given blood volume, also known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). As BAC rises in an individual’s bloodstream, the adverse effects on the central nervous system (CNS) increase. When alcohol is consumed, it absorbs directly through the stomach and intestinal lining, where it passes into the bloodstream and is metabolized by the liver.

Understanding the Effects of BAC

BAC is most often measured with a breathalyzer which determines the amount of alcohol present on a driver’s breath. BAC can also be obtained through a blood test when necessary.

In the United States, a BAC of 0.08 is considered intoxicated, while a BAC of 0.0 is deemed sober. Driving with BAC levels between 0.0 and 0.08 may not result in a DUI but can still produce dangerous effects. Anything above 0.08 is considered significantly impaired and can result in DUI. BAC levels close to 0.40 can be fatal. Examples of correlations between BAC and predictable effects include:

  • BAC 0.02: General effects may include minor loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth and altered mood. Predictable results on driving may consist of a decline in time perception, such as tracking a moving target and a reduction in the ability to multitask.
  • BAC 0.05: General effects may include loss of small-muscle control, impaired judgment and lowered alertness. Predictable driving results may consist of reduced coordination, difficulty steering and reduced ability to respond to emergency situations.
  • BAC 0.08 (legally Intoxicated): General effects may include significantly reduced muscle coordination, balance, vision, reaction time, judgment, reasoning and memory. Predictable results on driving may consist of short-term memory loss, reduced speed control and impaired perception.
  • BAC 0.10: General effects may include evident deterioration of reaction time, slurred speech, slowed thinking and poor coordination. Predictable results on driving may consist of reduced ability to maintain in the correct lane, brake appropriately and everything listed above.

While it is helpful to understand the common correlations between BAC, predictable effects and predictable effects while driving, it is essential to recognize that any amount of alcohol present in an individual’s bloodstream can be considered drunk driving. The best practice reads as follows for any situation: if you plan on drinking, do not drive.

Recognizing the Consequences of Drunk Driving

Driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol is a crime and can result in misdemeanor charges to felony offenses. Penalties for impaired driving include driver’s license revocation, fines and jail time. DUI convictions can have extreme consequences, some of which linger for years. These laws and policies ensure better safety for those on the roads and reduce the number of lives lost annually from avoidable situations.

Drunk driving is not only criminal but also inhumane. Drunk driving puts yourself and everyone around you at risk of injury and death in many cases. Alcohol produces sedative effects, which impair an individual’s ability to make clear decisions and respond quickly, which is essential for safe driving. When a person who has been drinking decides to get behind the wheel, they put everyone in great danger.

Another circumstance to consider is that many drunk drivers cause automobile crashes that often result in injury or death of those in the second vehicle. The drunk driver may walk away from the accident without a scratch, even though they have taken the lives of the innocent people involved. These all-too-common situations make advocating against drunk driving essential. Although you may know not to drive drunk, that may not stop someone else from getting behind the wheel themselves. It is crucial to spread the word about the effects of drunk driving to reduce the number of unnecessary injuries and fatalities.

Cliffside Malibu is an addiction recovery treatment center that recognizes the impact that drunk driving can have on an individual’s life. We offer several treatment programs, including treatment for alcohol addiction that can transform your life. We believe in the power of creating individualized, unique experiences for all of our patients in recovery. To learn more about our facility, call us today at (855) 403-5641.