Dec 01

December is National Impaired Driving Awareness Month

Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.

As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase, too. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Then it passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. Alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. At a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood (g/dL), crash risk increases exponentially. Because of this risk, it’s illegal in all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2016, there were 2,017 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had lower alcohol levels (BACs of .01 to .07 g/dL).

BAC is measured with a breathalyzer, a device that measures the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath, or by a blood test.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 of higher). In 2016, there were 10,497 people killed in these preventable crashes. In fact, on average over the 10-year period from 2006-2016, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.

Men are more likely than women to be driving drunk in fatal crashes. In 2016, 21 percent of males were drunk in these crashes, compared to 14 percent for females.

Take steps to prevent drunk driving:

  • If you will be drinking, plan on not driving. Plan your safe ride home before you start the party. Designate a sober driver ahead of time.
  • If you drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, etc. .
  • If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone’s life.


For more information, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving