The Dangers of Drunk Driving

The Dangers of Drunk Driving — Comprehensive Wellness Center

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

In the United States, one person dies every 52 minutes in a drunk driving-related accident. The consequences and effects of drunk driving are completely preventable. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is something an individual chooses to do, so even one death from this type of accident is one too many.

You don’t have to quit drinking completely, though many benefits come from doing so, you should know the dangers that come with drunk driving and the long-lasting impact it can have. If you, or if someone in your life is a frequent drunk driver, here’s a detailed explanation of what drunk driving is and why it needs to stop.

What Is Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving refers to operating any vehicle while intoxicated. This is not limited to only motor vehicles in the traditional sense of automobiles but also applies to boats, motorcycles, jet skis, and golf carts.

Drunk driving is commonly referred to as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) across the United States. The legal definition of it means that the driver was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.08%.

This does not mean that drinking up until that level is ok either as mental processing and physical impairment begin to occur after the first sips of alcohol. Having a BAC of 0.02, which usually occurs after one drink, has been proven to:

  • Impair judgment
  • Increase body temperature
  • Increase muscle relaxation
  • Decrease visual function and coordination
  • Decreases multi-tasking capacity

All of these physiological responses occur after one drink. How terrifying is it then that 37.4% of college-aged individuals believe that they are capable of operating a vehicle after 3-4 drinks?

Who Does It Impact?

Drunk driving first impacts the actual driver of the vehicle. It slows down reaction time because alcohol impairs the brain’s response time. If a car stops short in front of you, or if there is a pedestrian in a dimly lit crosswalk, the driver’s reaction to that will be delayed.

Drunk driving impacts the mental abilities of the driver, but physical abilities are impaired as well. Alcohol impacts hand, eye, and foot coordination. That is why police conduct physical coordination tests on individuals who they suspect are driving drunk.

Drunk driving also impacts innocent people, meaning those who did not set out to drive drunk that day. Innocent people are those that were driving home from work, or walking their dog, and are killed, or paralyzed, by drunk drivers.

This not only impacts innocent people on land but also out on the water. Having full attention and unimpaired cognitive skills out on the water is crucial as there are the added effects of sun and wind exposure, constant swaying, and noise on the driver. Boating under the influence of alcohol has been the leading cause of death and major accidents in waterways.

The families of both the victims and the drunk driver are also impacted. Victims of drunk driving range from children to parents, and grandparents, who leave behind a family abruptly because somebody made a conscious decision to operate a vehicle after drinking.

Another effect of drunk driving is the impact it has on every American taxpayer as well. Of all the drunk driving statistics out there, one of the most shocking ones is that drunk driving accidents cost the United States roughly $132 billion every year. That means that tax dollars are being used every year for these accidents instead of being invested in community growth and development.

Even if you don’t engage in drunk driving, you could be paying for it, so it’s crucial to work hard to prevent it from happening.

What Are The Consequences?

If the physical and mental impact wasn’t bad enough, drunk driving is a dangerous crime. This can bring heavy financial burdens to the driver. If you’re caught drunk driving, the vehicle can be towed and impounded.

Insurance companies also will increase their premiums for drunk drivers. These drivers can expect to see an increase of 80% on average from their insurance companies.

With this comes court-appointed fines and possible license suspensions. A suspended license limits your ability to live a normal life. While it is possible to get permission to drive to and from work, it’s not something that’s guaranteed.

The driver may also have to complete court-ordered rehab to try to prevent this from occurring again. This is a beneficial program that works with offenders to help them with addiction and dependency issues. Though helpful, this still is a time commitment that can take away from work and family commitments.

Despite the time commitment, court-ordered rehab is better than the alternative and sometimes unavoidable consequence of drunk driving, jail time. Since many drunk driving accidents sadly result in death, drunk drivers are convicted and sentenced to jail.

Is it worth potentially spending 30 months in jail for a crime that could have been avoided? This leads to emotional consequences for individuals and families. This burden is also a heavy one knowing that all of this was entirely preventable.

How To Prevent It?

The best way to prevent the dangers of drunk driving is to not drink and operate vehicles. Making sure you have a designated driver when going out is a great way to ensure a sober mind behind the wheel.

If you don’t have a designated driver due to going out alone, or if everybody wants to drink, make sure to utilize any of the various tools available today to get a ride back. Having the number to a local taxi company or using any of the popular rideshare applications directly from your phone are great solutions.

Contact Us today if you need help with drunk driving or need help getting through to someone that engages in drunk driving frequently.


Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol (DUI/DWI)

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Each day in America, nearly 29 people lose their lives to an alcohol-impaired vehicle crash. In 2016, this equated to one person every 50 minutes.

In a single year alone, it’s estimated that these deaths and the damage caused by them totaled 44 billion dollars. Aside from the monetary cost, the toll on a person’s life, and that of their loved ones, can be immense.

Driving under the influence of alcohol places an individual and those around them, including passengers, pedestrians and other individuals on the road, at risk of injury and death.

Fortunately, alcoholic addiction treatment can help people who are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction to regain a sober and safer life. For some, this may include enrolling in a court-ordered treatment program.

The Dangers Of Driving Under The Influence

Once a person’s blood alcohol concentration reaches .08 g/dL, the risk of a crash surges. With this in mind, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have made it illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or more. In addition to this, any amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood at ages under 21 is considered illegal.

Despite this, crashes can and do happen at lower blood alcohol concentrations. In 2016, drivers with a BAC of .07 and below were responsible for 2,017 fatalities caused by alcohol-related crashes.

Just a small amount of alcohol can alter the way a person processes and reacts to what’s going on around them. It can also alter their ability to think clearly. These changes can begin to impair a person’s ability to drive their vehicle shortly after alcohol is consumed.

Even within the legal limit, a person’s mental and physical states begin to change from alcohol’s effects. As a person’s blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) climb, the detriment and danger of being behind the wheel while drinking skyrockets.

The following chart shows how a person’s ability to drive becomes increasingly compromised as their BAC rises, as outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Physical And Mental Effects

  • A person feels relaxed, their body warms up and their mood is altered.
  • The ability to make sound judgments is somewhat compromised at this time.

Impact on Ability To Drive

  • A person’s visual functions, specifically their ability to quickly track a moving target, goes down.
  • It also becomes harder for a person to perform two tasks at once.

If a person chooses to drive under the influence they could be putting their life, and those near to them, in the hands of alcohol’s effects. Each year, the decision to drive under the influence results in thousands of deaths and countless lives changed. The statistics speak for themselves: nearly one three traffic crash deaths involve a drunk driver.

In 2016 alone, drunk-driving deaths rose by 1.7 percent, totaling 10,497 lives lost, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Further, in 2016:

  • the greatest number of drivers with a BAC of 08 g/dL or higher in deadly car crashes were 25 to 34 year olds, equaling 27 percent of drivers.
  • in drivers who were involved in deadly car crashes, rates of alcohol impairment were over three times higher at night than during the day.
  • the number of drivers involved in deadly car crashes who were alcohol-impaired was nearly double on weekends than what is was during the week, at 26 and 14 percent respectively.
  • 17 percent of children aged 14 and younger who died in traffic crashes lost their live because of an alcohol-impaired-driving crash.

While anyone who drinks could potentially be at risk for driving drunk, research has found that men have higher rates of drunk driving in fatal car crashes than do women.

What Happens When A Person Gets A DUI Or DWI?

Once a person is pulled over, and their blood alcohol concentration is analyzed, the officer will determine if they will remain in custody. Arrested individuals with a BAC of .08 or higher are typically held in jail. The terminology for drunk driving may vary per state, but some of the most common include:

  • DUI: driving under the influence
  • DWI: driving while intoxicated
  • OWI: operating while intoxicated

Once released, the person will ly receive a court date where they will then be sentenced. Sentencing requirements for a DUI or DWI vary on a state-by-state basis, however, minimal penalties often require fines and a revoked license.

As part of sentencing for a DUI or DWI, a person may be required to enroll in a court-ordered alcohol addiction treatment program. Mandated treatment means that a person must enroll in treatment as part of their sentencing requirements. If they don’t, they could face legal repercussions.

In order to determine the scope and necessity of court-ordered treatment, a person is evaluated to determine if there:

  • is a risk for impaired driving in the future.
  • is a risk of crash involvement in the future.
  • are any issues or circumstances that intervention and treatment should focus on.

Evaluating a person’s risk for continued alcohol abuse and their need for treatment generally takes place in two parts. First, just before or after a referral for treatment is made, a person will ly be screened so that the courts can determine what treatment should be required.

Once a person is about to enter treatment, or just after they arrive, a more in-depth evaluation, or assessment occurs. This clinical assessment determines how severe a person’s drinking problem is, what treatments could be used to treat it and how long treatment should be.

Court-Ordered Rehab: Treatment For A DUI Or DWI

The specifics of court-mandated treatment may differ per person and be dependent on the exact circumstances surrounding their arrest. First-time offenders may have a lighter sentence compared to repeat offenders who have had a previous DUI or DWI. While it isn’t necessary to hire a lawyer, legal representation could help a person during the sentencing process.

Every DUI offender comes from a different walk of life, potentially experiencing varying levels of alcohol abuse. Sentencing and treatment referral may take into account other factors that could influence the odds of a person experiencing an alcohol-related traffic problem in the future. An example could include a comorbid condition, such as a co-occurring mental health disorder.

From this, the court will determine the duration, frequency and intensity of treatment required for each offender. Treatment may be brief and encompass only one or two sessions, take place in an outpatient program and last several weeks or months or include inpatient treatment followed by aftercare.

Treatment is often held in a basic alcohol addiction treatment program located in a person’s community, however, options town may be available. Additional court-ordered interventions could include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • educational programs
  • supervised probation
  • victim impact panels

While it can be vastly beneficial for a person to choose getting help on their own, reserach has shown that involuntary treatment, such as court-ordered rehab, can be effective. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this treatment could increase:

  • treatment entry
  • retention rates
  • a person’s measure of recovery success

Once a sentence is issued and treatment is required, many people may be quick to enter treatment just to get it over with. Though this is understandable, looking at treatment as an opportunity to regain a healthier and more balanced life, in addition to learning sober living skills, can help a person get more their program.

Because of this, and if the court permits, it can be helpful to research treatment options, prior to selecting a treatment program.

Finding Treatment For A DUI Or DWI

While it could be tempting to enroll in rehab only for the minimum amount of treatment required, or in a program offered nearby, better options could exist.

Court-ordered treatment can be an excellent opportunity for a person to pursue treatment for longer or in a more specialized setting. If it fulfills the sentencing requirements, choosing an out-of-town addiction treatment program could give a person a better chance of successfully recovering from an alcohol use disorder.

Traveling to treatment offers a person better privacy. It also removes a person from familiar triggers for alcohol abuse that may exist near their home or in their community.

The best treatment programs offer in-depth, individualized treatments that addresses the many ways addiction causes destruction within a person’s life. For a person who has experienced a DUI or DWI, this could include social or legal services.

In addition to this, comprehensive treatment should help a person to overcome any behavioral or emotional damage caused by addiction. For some, this may include dual diagnosis treatment for a mental health disorder, depression or anxiety. Treatment may also address the toll a person’s drinking has taken on their relationships, career or schooling.

Behavioral therapies and counseling can help a person to regain better functioning within their home, family and community. These individual, group or family sessions will also teach a person dynamic coping skills that enhance sober living and a responsible, alcohol-free life.

Contact Vertava Health for more info on the dangers of alcohol abuse and addiction.


Impaired Driving: Get the Facts

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.1 This is one death every 50 minutes.1 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.2

Thankfully, there are effective measures that can help prevent injuries and deaths from alcohol-impaired driving.

  • In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.1
  • Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.1
  • In 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.3 That’s one percent of the 111 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year (figure below).
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.4
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.5
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more ly to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors–such as age and gender–may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.4

Source: CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 1993–2014. Available at https://www.cdc.

Note: The annual estimated alcohol-impaired driving episodes were calculated using BRFSS respondents’ answers to this question: “During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you’ve had perhaps too much to drink?” Annual estimates per respondent were calculated by multiplying the reported episodes during the preceding 30 days by 12. These numbers were summed to obtain the annual national estimates (see

Young people:

  • At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people.6
  • Among drivers with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes in 2016, nearly three in 10 were between 25 and 34 years of age (27%). The next two largest groups were ages 21 to 24 (26%) and 35 to 44 (22%).1


  • Among motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes in 2016, 25% had BACs of 0.08% or greater.1
  • Motorcyclists ages 35-39 have the highest percentage of deaths with BACs of 0.08% or greater (38% in 2016).7

Drivers with prior driving while impaired (DWI) convictions:

  • Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were 4.5 times more ly to have a prior conviction for DWI than were drivers with no alcohol in their system. (9% and 2%, respectively).1

Information in this table shows the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at which the effect usually is first observed.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)*Typical EffectsPredictable Effects on Driving
About 2 alcoholic drinks**
  • Some loss of judgment
  • Relaxation
  • Slight body warmth
  • Altered mood
  • Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target)
  • Decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)
About 3 alcoholic drinks**
  • Exaggerated behavior
  • May have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Usually good feeling
  • Lowered alertness
  • Release of inhibition
  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects
  • Difficulty steering
  • Reduced response to emergency driving situations
About 4 alcoholic drinks**
  • Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing)
  • Harder to detect danger
  • Judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired
  • Concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Speed control
  • Reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search)
  • Impaired perception
About 5 alcoholic drinks**
  • Clear deterioration of reaction time and control
  • Slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking
  • Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
About 7 alcoholic drinks**
  • Far less muscle control than normal
  • Vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance
    for alcohol)
  • Major loss of balance
  • Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing

The number of drinks listed represents the approximate amount of alcohol that a 160-pound man would need to drink in one hour to reach the listed BAC in each category.

**A Standard Drink Size in the United States

A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Adapted from The ABCs of BACpdf iconexternal icon, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005, and How to Control Your Drinking, WR Miller and RF Munoz, University of New Mexico, 1982.

Effective measures include:

  • Actively enforcing existing 0.08% BAC laws, minimum legal drinking age laws, and zero tolerance laws for drivers younger than 21 years old in all states.4,8
  • Requiring ignition interlocks for all offenders, including first-time offenders.9
  • Using sobriety checkpoints.10
  • Putting health promotion efforts into practice that influence economic, organizational, policy, and school/community action.11,12
  • Using community-based approaches to alcohol control and DWI prevention.8,12,13
  • Requiring mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment, if needed, for DWI offenders.14
  • Raising the unit price of alcohol by increasing taxes.15

What safety steps can individuals take?

Make plans so that you don’t have to drive while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. For example:

  • Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver when with a group.
  • Don’t let your friends drive while impaired.
  • If you have been drinking alcohol and/or using drugs, get a ride home, use a ride share service, or call a taxi.
  • If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate a sober driver. Offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2016 data: alcohol-impaired driving. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2017 Available at: icon Accessed 16 April 2018.
  2. Blincoe LJ, Miller TR, Zaloshnja E, Lawrence BA.

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The economic and societal impact of motor vehicle crashes, 2010. (Revised). U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2015. Available at: iconexternal icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  3. Federal Bureau of Investigation (I). Department of Justice (US).

    Crime in the United States 2016: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington (DC): I; 2017. Available at icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  4. Compton RP, Berning A. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: drugs and alcohol crash risk. U.S.

    Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2015 Available at: iconexternal icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  5. Berning A, Compton R, Wochinger K. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Results of the 2013–2014 national roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers. U.S.

    Department of Transportation. Washington, DC; 2015. Available at: iconexternal icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  6. Zador PL, Krawchuk SA, Voas RB. Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvement in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender: an update using 1996 data.

    Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2000; 61:387-395.

  7. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2016 data: motorcycles. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2018. Available at: icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.
  8. The Community Guide.

    Motor vehicle-related injury prevention: reducing alcohol-impaired driving. Available at: icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  9. The Community Guide. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: ignition interlocks. Available at: icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.

  10. The Community Guide. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: publicized sobriety checkpoint programs. Available at: icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.
  11. Gielen AC, Sleet DA, DiClemente RJ. Modifying alcohol use to reduce motor vehicle injury.

    Injury and violence prevention: behavior science theories, methods, and applications. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006 pp 534. ISBN 978- 7879-7764-1

  12. Holder HD, Gruenewald PJ, Ponicki WR, et al. Effect of community-based interventions on high-risk drinking and alcohol-related injuries. JAMA 2000;284:2341-7.
  13. Shults RA, Elder RW, Nichols J, et al.

    Effectiveness of multicomponent programs with community mobilization for reducing alcohol-impaired driving. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 009;37(4):360-371.

  14. Higgins-Biddle J, Dilonardo J. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol and highway safety: screening and brief intervention for alcohol problems as a community approach to improving traffic safety.

    U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2013 DOT HS 811 836.

  15. The Community Guide. Reducing excessive alcohol use: increasing alcohol taxes. Available at URL: icon. Accessed 16 April 2018.


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