National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month is celebrated annually in December. What can you do in the next few weeks to support the intent of this very important national celebration month?
For many, it’s impossible to understand why such a proclamation and celebration month is necessary. For many, it’s a surprise to know how little it takes. Based on the weight variable alone, a person’s BAC (blood alcohol content) will likely be .08 or higher with the following quantities/time period:
- 110-129 lbs: 2 drinks in an hour or less
- 130-149 lbs: 3 drinks in 2 hours or less
- 170-189 lbs: 4 drinks in 2 hours or less
Many people ask, “How is it that a person can even ‘think’ they’re good to drive once they’ve been drinking?” And it’s that question that also carries part of the answer – the word, ‘think.’
When a person drinks more than the liver can process (metabolize), that person can no longer “think” straight. Why? Because alcohol is not processed like other foods and liquids. It bypasses the digestive system and moves into the small intestine and from there into the bloodstream where it travels to body organs and tissue high in water content and highly vascularized (meaning lots of blood vessels) – like the brain. Alcohol leaves the body (is metabolized) by the liver. It takes the liver ABOUT one hour to metabolize one standard drink. Therefore, 4 drinks will take 4 hours, and while each drink waits its turn out the liver, it “sits” in the brain where it impairs neural networks and therefore a person’s ability to “think” straight and act responsibly. [Note: gender, age, medications, weight, stage of brain development all influence how quickly alcohol is metabolized and how alcohol impairs one person's brain vs another person's. Therefore, the one drink per hour is a very rough average.]
What Can You Do to Support National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month?
Beyond the obvious admonition, “Don’t drink and drive,” here are five suggestions for doing your part to raise awareness and support National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month:
1. Familiarize yourself with the definition of a standard drink of each of the various alcoholic beverages, as well as the numbers of standard drinks/cocktail or drink container. This can help you decide when to intervene on a friend’s behalf, for example. It can also be a point of conversation leading up to a celebratory night on the town.
2. Understand how alcohol changes the brain and why staying within low-risk drinking limits is so important. These limits, for example, help a person’s liver keep up with metabolizing the quantity of alcohol consumed and thereby allowing the person to stay in control of his/her brain and therefore his/her thoughts and actions.
3. Understand how brain changes are caused by binge drinking or heavy social drinking, in addition to alcoholism (addiction). In fact, most people who drive while impaired are NOT alcoholics. Rather, they are alcohol abusers. “How Much is Too Much? At-Risk Drinking Patterns Explained.”
4. Learn how it’s possible for a person to drink and “choose” to drive. “DUI – Is It a Choice or an Accident?” This can help you protect yourself from the drinking behaviors that occur when a person who drinks too much.
5. Advocate for standard drink labels on alcoholic beverage containers and on restaurant and bar menus. Click here for details.
And for information specific to drugged driving and why it’s so difficult to cite a person under the influence of drugs, consider reading “Drugged Driving.”