Drinking and Driving
People who drink are unable to drive safely because their judgment is impaired, their reaction time is slower, and their coordination is reduced. In 2010, 10,228 Americans were killed in accidents involving drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher about 31% of traffic fatalities that year. Each year, more than 275,000 people are injured in alcohol-related car crashes. In the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.9% of Americans age 21-25, the highest percentage for any age group, admitted to using alcohol before driving.
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In addition to increasing the risk of injury and death, driving while intoxicated can have serious legal consequences. The legal limit for BAC in all states is 0.08%; however, alcohol impairs the user even at much lower BACs (Figure 13.3). States now also have zero-tolerance laws regarding alcohol use by drivers under age 21. Under these laws, a young driver who has consumed any alcohol can have his or her license suspended. There are stiff penalties for drunk driving, including fines, loss of license, confiscation of vehicle, and jail time.
If you are out drinking, find an alternative means of transportation or follow the practice of having a designated driver someone who refrains from drinking in order to provide safe transportation home for others in the group.
It’s more difficult to protect yourself against a drunk driver. Learn to be alert to the erratic driving that signals an impaired driver. Warning signs include making wide, abrupt, and illegal turns; straddling the center line or lane marker; driving against traffic; driving on the shoulder; weaving, swerving, or nearly striking an object or another vehicle; following too closely; driving at erratic speeds; driving with headlights off at night; and driving with the window down in very cold weather.