What affects your blood alcohol level & what are some designator driver options?
By: Meagan Baron
December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Before drinking, or being around people who are drinking, know the facts. There is nothing worse here at Mosaic Insurance Alliance than hearing from a client that they lost their loved one, and car accidents are a common cause.
In the United States, road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 54 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2019, more than 40,000 people died in alcohol-related car accidents, as noted by the National Safety Council. The holidays are always a bad time of the year for excessive drinking, impaired drivers, and DUI accidents. Let’s make this year different.
Here at Mosaic, we want to help our clients create a safe atmosphere for themselves, their loved ones, and all that is important to them. We believe that knowledge is power, so we compiled some important information and resources that you can access wherever and whenever you need it. We know that this year will be different when it comes to parties and social drinking since the coronavirus has resulted in home lockdowns, closed bars, and no in-person seating at restaurants. However, this information can help you when things open again. It can also help you now since you could still encounter drunk drivers on the road, and you might find yourself having the urge to drive after alcohol consumption at home.
How Can I Get a Safe Ride Home When Drinking?
Our advice is that if you are not drinking at a place where you will be staying overnight, the best thing to do is plan outside transportation ahead of time. No matter how much alcohol you end up consuming, it is good to have a driver that has not consumed any alcohol and/or drugs.
Additionally, having backup options in case someone cancels on you is a good idea.
Below are some ways you can get a designated driver:
- Friend or family member
- If you are in college, see if your campus has a buddy system. Many colleges now have carpool type services where students who are not drinking can sign up to drive those who are drinking to their destinations.
- Bus: Check which bus services are in your area and the times that they operate. It is also good to know the cost of fare and if they have a bus pass for transactions and transfers. Common bus services in Snohomish and King Counties include:
- Community Transit: website; main phone (800-562-1375); RIDE phone (425-353-7433); app
- Everett Transit: website; phone (425-257-7777); app
- Sound Transit: website; phone (1-888-889-6368)
- Skagit Transit: website; phone (360-757-4433); app
- Greyhound: website; phone contact page; app (Apple; Google Play)
- Flixbus: website; app
- Metro Transit: website; phone (206-553-3000); app center
- Also, if you have an Orca Card, you can get information on that bus pass here: website; phone number (888-988-6722)
- Lyft: website; app (Apple, Google Play)
- Yellow Cab Taxi: website; phone (425-609-7777); app (Apple; Google Play)
- Uber: website; schedule a ride; app (Apple, Google Play, Windows)
It is also good to keep in mind that walking while impaired can lead to some safety problems. If you are not careful, you could walk in front of a car while crossing the street, for example. Additionally, walking impaired means you are not able to protect yourself as adequately, and it can lead to you being vulnerable to predators. If you need to walk to a bus stop, choose a drinking location that is right next to a well-populated and well-lit bus stop. If possible, arrange a ride that can get you right at your destination, especially during nighttime.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Ability to Drive?
Driving while drunk/high affects all kinds of things, including:
- Reaction time
Safe driving depends on those above factors, so if 1+ more of them are impacted by alcohol or drugs, your ability to drive safely decreases significantly or disappears entirely.
Drinking and drugs can also lead to health issues that affect driving ability, like nausea/vomiting, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, exhaustion, and dehydration.
Remember, just one mistake can result in a fatal car crash. Moreover, even if a mistake is done by another driver, your impairment might take away your opportunity to react in time and avoid an accident.
What Factors Affect Your Blood Alcohol Level?
In the state of Washington, if your blood alcohol level is .08% or higher, you are considered by law too impaired to drive.
It is as given fact that drink quantity helps determine your blood alcohol level. Most people also know that hard alcohol affects you differently than alcohol like wine or beer, and that your weight is a big factor when determining impairment. But, there are also other factors at play, including the ones mentioned in the infographic below.
Please remember that items gathered below are just some things that can impact your impairment levels. Overall, it is best to avoid drinking and doing actions that require a clear mind (i.e. driving, swimming, using power tools, etc.). Yes, it is true that with time you will get more sober, and that food can help you decrease your blood alcohol levels…But, when it comes to drinking and your safety, it’s best to hang up the keys. Don’t play the math game of 3 Drinks – 1 Hour + 2 Tacos = Am I Ready to Drive?
Is the Person Driving Near Me Drunk?
It is good to know the red flags that suggest a drunk driver is driving on the road with you.
Drunk drivers are known to drive at significantly slow/fast speeds, having problems staying in their lane, swerving, missing turns, sudden braking, not adhering to basic driving laws like cutting off others, and the like. If you encounter a driver that you think is impaired, the best thing to do is be vigilant and keep your distance. You might even want to take extra precautions like changing lanes or taking a detour.
What Precautions Can I Take to Avoid Temptation?
When drinking, some things can be very tempting to do. It is common to get bored or hyper and look for various means of entertainment. Socializing, driving, and food are some top things that spike many people’s curiosity and desires when drinking. Ways to avoid temptation include:
- Put your keys in a safe spot that is out of view. In other words—out of sight out of mind. If you do not see your keys, you might not think about driving. If you are at home, this is easier to do—place them in a cupboard, drawer, etc. If you are in a bar or at a party somewhere, you will obviously want to always keep your keys with you, so they do not get lost or stolen. If you find yourself drinking too much, you can zip them up in the bottom of your purse or secure them in a deep coat pocket and call someone for a ride home.
- Make sure you have what you need when drinking at home. Get plenty of food, ingredients, etc. ahead of time so that you do not have to make a trip to the store to restock.
- Know your common cravings. If certain foods/items sound good to you usually when drinking, have those on hand so you do not want to go to the store to get them.
- Make sure your friends/guests have a plan. Encourage those you drink with to drink responsibly. Once gatherings can happen again, make sure that everyone you will be hanging out with has their ride figured out and a backup plan if that ride falls though. The last thing you want is someone asking you to pick them up or take them home. It can be hard to say no in these situations. Having a sleepover option ready in case someone does not have a ride is also a nice safety net.
How about when you specifically drink? Are there things that you find really tempting that are not safe and/or may lead to you getting behind the wheel? Form a plan to help you (1) avoid unsafe urges, and (2) have everything you need beforehand so you do not need to drive to get it.
Yes, it is true that even safe drivers who are sober can end up in car accidents. Things happen and sometimes we have no control over the outcome. However, being safe means that the odds are in our favor. Driving while under the influence takes away the upper hand from ourselves and those around us. Like they say, it is better to be safe than sorry. And, like we say, we are “stronger…together.” To get those injury and fatality numbers down, and create a safer environment, all we have to do is spread awareness, work together, and take a few minutes out of our day to plan our trip.