If there were no more drinking and driving, we could prevent 30% of all traffic deaths on a normal day. That’s how much alcohol plays a role in the loss of life on the road. If there was no drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve however, we could prevent 40% of the deaths that occur.
This is just thinking about deaths related to alcohol and driving. This doesn’t count for impaired driving due to marijuana, prescription pills, or other drugs. It also doesn’t take into account other types of death related to alcohol, like alcohol poisoning.
Our culture equates celebrating with drinking. The alcohol (and other drug) industries make a lot of money promoting this idea. “The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States notes that a quarter of the $49-billion-a-year distilled spirits industry’s profits come from the month between Thanksgiving and the New Year .” (Source: https://www.alcohol.org/statistics-information/holiday-binge-drinking/ )
We can all do our part to keep our roads safe. Those high numbers of car crash deaths are comprised of a bunch of individual actions, so the only way to get big change is if we each do our part. Here’s what you can do:
- One option is don’t make alcohol or other drugs part of your celebration. Despite the story that the commercials tell us, many adults don’t drink alcohol. Most adults in Oklahoma don’t binge drink. For underage people, it’s not a rite of passage, and we as adults shouldn’t assume teens will drink. The earlier teens start drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol in adulthood.
- If you are an adult who chooses to drink, make a plan ahead of time for transportation. One type of thinking that can get people into trouble is when they tell themselves, “I can handle alcohol better than most”. Or sometimes people may think, “I don’t have that far to go.” All it takes is one second to cause a fatal car crash. Alcohol and other drugs slow reaction times. We must make the responsible choice and plan ahead for transportation. This inconvenience is minor compared to a car crash.
- Remember cognitive and reactive abilities are still impaired AFTER physical signs of intoxication begin to subside. If we don’t make assumptions and play it safe, we can prevent unnecessary loss of life. A common myth is that coffee reduces impairement, but actually caffeinated beverages (including mixing Red Bull and energy drinks with alcohol) actually give the illusion that the impairment is less than it actually is . Only enough passing of time can eliminate impairment.
- Even if you are under the legal limit, you may still be impaired. As the saying goes, buzzed driving is drunk driving.
- We don’t talk about it as much, and sometimes the data isn’t as good because of the limitations of roadside testing measures, however, marijuana does impair driving. In controlled studies where researchers have tested driving ability after using marijuana, they found that marijuana impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. Also, marijuana is the most common illicit drug found in the blood of drivers involved in car crashes.
There are lots of ways we can have fun AND stay safe this holiday season. We wish you a fun and healthy new year!
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)