Alcohol related deaths from drunk driving have claimed enough lives that all 50 states deem it illegal to drive when you have an 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) in your body. If you are caught, you will be charged with a DUI or DWI, which means you will immediately be arrested and placed in a holding cell. You will likely be expected to pay fines of up to $10,000, hand in your driver’s license, and potentially deal with a felony charge. You may even be ordered to seek substance abuse help if this is not your first time.
These are not the only consequences of you getting caught drinking and driving. There is an entire practical side that comes with DUI charges, like being fired from your job after your boss finds out about the charges, being unable to obtain a new job due to your record, increased auto insurance rates, and a damaged reputation amongst people you know. This is without mentioning the risks of wrecking your car, or worse, crashing into another vehicle due to your intoxicated driving.
There are solid, empirical reasons that are backed by scientific research as to why drinking and driving is a dangerous idea. People who are addicted to alcohol may find driving sober difficult if they feel the need to drink throughout the day. If this is you, consider seeking advice from an alcohol intervention center.
The Levels of BAC
There is a reason that a BAC of 0.08% is considered illegal when driving and lower BAC levels are not. When you first start drinking, the lowest BAC level in which alcohol starts taking noticeable effects, is 0.02%. At 0.02% BAC, you will feel relaxed as all the troubles and worries of your prior mental state seem to magically wash away with each drink you take. You will still retain some judgement, but you will likely care less about what other people in the room think of you because you are so relaxed that the energy it takes to care feels pointless to exert.
The mental state at 0.02% is a good one for taking a temporary break from life’s concerns, stress from school, or trouble at work. Although, some physiological functions start to dissipate with the psychological ones as your skills for accurately following objects with your eyes decreases. Your multi-tasking abilities go next. You may feel like this is not enough, so you drink more.
Then you arrive at the 0.05% BAC level and that is when the tipsy feelings begin. Your coordination is now poor, moving the small muscles of your hands takes too much energy that you no longer have, and your judgements are muffled as the good feelings take over. If you were to drive at this point, even if this level is considered legal, your ability to steer will be tougher to accomplish and your reflexes to the cars around you will be slightly delayed.
At the illegal BAC of 0.08%, your entire muscle coordination will be dull, which affects your sense of balance, speaking ability, visual accuracy, and reaction time to sudden changes in the environment. It is no wonder then that your perception is hindered too, which severely affects your awareness of other vehicles on the road, stop lights, and stop signs. If your BAC goes higher than 0.15%, then seek immediate substance abuse help by calling 911 because this level is lethal.
Your Brain on Alcohol
Alcohol leads to all of these strange effects the more you drink because of the manner in which alcohol binds to GABA receptors in the brain. The GABA neurotransmitter is inhibitory, which means that when GABA binds to GABA receptors in the brain, your neuron firing rate decreases. When your neurons fire slower, you become relaxed, sleepy, and if they continue, you naturally fall asleep. This is why GABA activity is linked to natural sleep. Think about that next time you drink a lot and consider driving, alcohol slowly puts you to sleep.
Why Teens Drink and Drive
An astonishing 85% of teens in high school have reported drinking and driving in the past month. Since teen drivers have less driving experience, statistics show that when teens drink and drive, they are 3 times more likely to have a wreck. The message that drinking and driving is dangerous has been made fairly clear in recent years and thankfully this behavior has decreased by 54%, but alcohol intervention programs have not completely prevented these incidents.
Before the age of about 25, studies in developmental psychology have shown that adolescents are more impulsive and sensation-seeking because their frontal lobes are still developing. The frontal lobes house our conscience, decision-making skills, thinking ahead, and inhibition of impulses to act on a thought. Other researchers in psychology implicate that teens drink more because they need to cope with negative social experiences and depression in some cases. These issues need to be addressed to solve the underlying problems.
Serious Consequences of Drinking and Driving
While there are plenty of legal consequences of drinking and driving, there are also severe instances of drunk driving accidents that have led to serious repercussions for the offender and the victims. In some cases, a drunk driver has unintentionally killed another driver and passengers in a wreck. This can result in serious emotional regret, pain, and prison time. This can destroy the rest of someone’s life. This is not worth the risk.
Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse
At the Recover, we try our best to understand the point of view of someone who is addicted to alcohol or other addictive substances. No one wants to be trapped between withdrawal and cravings to continue using. If your addiction to alcohol has led you to drink and drive or perform other risky behaviors, please seek substance abuse help because no one should have to deal with the hardships of addiction alone.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that presents the public with information pertaining to substance addiction. We also have information about West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you are struggling with a substance addiction, call (888) 510-3898 to talk to a treatment specialist who will help you find an alcohol intervention program for you.