For many, New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to celebrate the closing of one year and the potential they feel at the start of the new. It is a time for remember the year that has passed, making resolutions and looking forward to the future.
For many others, New Year’s Eve becomes a time when all of those opportunities and all of that planning falls apart because they – or someone else – drove while intoxicated.
Drunk driving kills an estimated 32 people in the United States every day, or around one every forty-five minutes. Every year, alcohol related crashes cost more than $51 billion in total damage, which cannot take into account the cost in lost life or quality of life or the emotional toll.
New Years Eve, with its parties and late night rituals, is almost legendary among emergency responder personnel as a night for drunken driving and car accidents.
While you celebrate the end of the old and the arrival of the new, please keep in mind the effects of alcohol on the human body, and most importantly, on your driving ability.
Alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is clear that alcohol can drastically impair function. The level of this impairment depends on the level alcohol in the blood stream. The more alcohol, the higher the degree of impairment.
In large quantities (a BAC of =.40, for example), alcohol can be fatal, paralyzing the respiratory system. As shocking as it may sound, though, in people with particularly high tolerances, driving with a blood alcohol level this high is not entirely impossible. While rare, it can and has happened, and presents an extreme danger to other drivers.
It is important to remember, though, that impairment begins well below this. Difficulty performing simple tasks can start in some people at a BAC as low as .03. For most people, significant changes in driving can begin around .05.
Driving is a complex task. It relies on a person’s ability to judge and respond to situations quickly, and to monitor many factors at the same time. In reality, driving is not just one task, but one action that requires the driver to multitask – the driver must be aware of traffic around him, his own speed and status, changes in the environment, pedestrians, road conditions, and any number of other factors, any of which may change at any time and require an appropriate and timely response.
It is not a task which mixes with alcohol. Any alcohol at all can be detrimental to a driver’s judgment and reaction time, and lead to accidents.
And alcohol is especially dangerous to younger drivers. Drivers between twenty-one and twenty-four were most likely to be involved in alcohol related crashes. This age group is more likely to drink heavily, and also more likely to have limited driving experience.
If that is not enough to keep you from driving while intoxicated this holiday, then also remember that New Year’s Eve is also legendary for its drunk driving police stops. The police will be ready for the possibility of overindulgence, and sobriety check points along with aggressive enforcement of drunk driving laws and strict punishment are among the best tools at law enforcement officials’ disposal. Be safe tonight while ringing in the New Year.
Happy New Year from the Law Offices of Michael Lawson Neff!