In New Orleans, we love to drink alcohol. So with the holiday season rapidly approaching, it would be a real travesty if I didn’t address drunk driving. Here’s a sobering thought: someone is killed in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident every 53 minutes on average. One in three of those accidents occur with someone between the ages of 21 and 24 at the wheel and another third are between 25 and 34.
Drinking and driving can change your life forever, but most people don’t know what alcohol really does to you. Drinking and driving is clearly dangerous, but it’s important to understand how alcohol impairs your ability to drive properly. Alcohol is a depressant that slows your eye muscles. That makes it difficult to track objects properly. Alcohol also distorts your night vision. Those who are intoxicated often see halos around bright lights at night. These halos can obscure a pedestrian crossing the street or a road sign telling them to stop or slow down.
Alcohol also slows your reaction time. If you saw a person in the middle of the road, for example, it would take you longer to hit the brakes or swerve to avoid them than if you weren’t under the influence. It also impairs your coordination so that actually getting your foot to hit the brake is harder than it normally is. As you probably already know, alcohol can make you sleepy, which compounds all of the above problems.
These are just a few of the many reasons why you should not drink and drive. While you might agree with me in theory, many people will also say they should be fine if they’ve only had a drink or two. But you might be surprised how quickly you actually hit your blood alcohol limit. A 120-pound woman will have a blood alcohol level of .08 after only two drinks over the course of an hour. A 180-pound man will hit the same blood alcohol level around his third drink in an hour. Remember, a drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine or a single ounce of liquor, which are amounts much smaller than what most people are probably used to consuming.
If you’ve driven after a few drinks, chances are good you’ve driven above the legal limit. Do your favorite doc a favor this holiday season, call a cab or hand over your keys to a truly sober friend. It could save your life and the lives of many others.