Are you getting together with friends for the holiday season and plan on drinking? Are you suffering from a cold or the flu and taking prescription or over-the-counter medicine to treat it? Do you use or abuse drugs or alcohol? If any of these things are true, and you drive a car, then you should know that any of these can hinder your ability to drive safely.
The Effects of Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs – even many OTC and prescription drugs – affect the nervous system, and it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, how much experience you have driving, or your supposed “tolerance” for the stuff. When sober, you may have exceptional driving skills, but add alcohol to the mix and things change for the worse:
- Reflexes – Your reaction time slows, and it takes longer for the impaired brain and body to process and react to quickly-changing vehicle, road, and traffic situations.
- Vision – Your eye muscles, ability to focus quickly, and clear night vision are altered so much that you may not be able to process the position and speed of other vehicles or even that of your own vehicle.
- Dozing – The impaired mind has a problem focusing on anything and may even become drowsy. Behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound guided missile is not the place for this.
- Decisions – Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it becomes difficult to make rational decisions, such as the appropriate speed for a curve or how quickly to brake.
- Coordination – Body coordination can be affected, hands and feet over- or under-reacting to your command, resulting in erratic movements.
On average, every year, some thirty million drunk drivers are on the road and some ten million drive while under the influence of drugs. The results of such activity are a brutal wake-up call to friends and family – 30 people die every day in impairment-related traffic accidents in the United States.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month – 4th Anniversary
In 2012, the Obama administration designated December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a fitting time for everyone to help each other to stay safe on the road by not driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How can you prevent driving impaired and protect yourself from impaired drivers?
- Designate a sober driver before you start the party. Next party, switch it up for another in your group.
- Don’t serve alcohol to those under 21. Even in your own home, underage drinking is illegal anyway.
- Plan safer parties, including non-alcoholic options and restricting alcoholic beverages the last hour or two of the gathering.
- Drugged driving is the same as drunk driving, whether the drugs are legal or not. Don’t drive if you partake.
- Don’t ride with someone who is impaired or who you think may be impaired.
We hope that everyone can have a safe holiday season, whether you’re having friends over or you’re heading to visit family. Can you have a drink? Sure, but don’t drive until your body has processed it all. Should you take OTC drugs to tame that cough? Indeed, you can, but don’t drive if it makes you drowsy. Help everyone to learn the facts and reduce or eliminate traffic fatalities that result from driving while impaired.