It’s a Friday night. You’ve had a long week at work or school. Now, it’s time to go out, relax and enjoy a good time. So, head out to a local restaurant, bar or nightclub to hang out with your friends. If you plan to drive home that night, should you drink alcohol? If you do drink alcohol, will you know when you have had too much?
We’ll answer those questions at the end of this article. First, we want you to consider the following:
Drinking Alcohol & Crash Risks
Statistics indicate that a driver who has consumed even a slight amount of alcohol faces a heightened crash risk in Florida.
The state had the third-highest total of traffic crash fatalities involving alcohol use (driver with blood alcohol content, or BAC, of .08 or higher) in the country in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Drunk Driving & Florida Law
It is illegal to drive in Florida (or in any other state in the country) with a BAC of 0.08 or higher or with one’s physical and mental faculties impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
The conviction rate for DUI in Florida is extremely high. In 2012, Florida law enforcement agencies issued 53,664 DUI citations. The FDHSMV reports that 48,146 of those citations resulted in dispositions by the end of 2012. Out of those cases:
The higher one’s BAC, the greater one’s impairment. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the following are the stages of impairment one goes through as one’s BAC increases:
- Mild Impairment (.01 to .05) – One might feel relaxed but sleepy as well. Speech, memory, coordination and balance may become impaired.
- Increased Impairment (.06 to .15) – Relaxation becomes intoxication. One’s speech, memory, coordination and balance become even more impaired, while driving skills are significantly impaired, including:
- Reaction time
- Control of vehicle
- Ability to do basic driving tasks
- Ability to stay awake despite drowsiness.
- Severe Impairment (.16 to .30) – Driving-related skills, judgment and decision-making are all dangerously impaired. Blackouts, vomiting, loss of consciousness and other signs of alcohol poisoning are possible.
- Life-Threatening Impairment (.31 to .45) – One risks death at this level of impairment due to suppression of vital bodily functions. Loss of consciousness and alcohol poisoning are likely.
One becomes impaired one drink at a time. The number of drinks you consume, the speed at which you consume them, whether you have consumed food as well and your weight and gender can all have an impact on your BAC.
The NIAAA states that one drink of alcohol will stay in one’s system for about two hours. Sleeping, cold showers and drinking coffee do not speed up one’s return to sobriety. Only time does.
Should You Drive After Drinking Alcohol? How Much is Too Much?
Now, we’re ready to answer the questions we posed at the start of this article. After you have read the above, we hope you are, too.
The basic answers: No, you should not drive home if you consume alcohol. Even a slight amount is too much when you consider the risk to your life and the lives of others.
Do the following instead to get yourself safely back home if you go out on the town and consume alcohol:
- Use a designated driver who does not consume any alcohol.
- Use public transportation service such as LYNX.
- Call a taxi.
- Call a friend or family member to pick you up.
- If you drink at night, give yourself time to sober up the next morning before you get behind the wheel to drive yourself home.
A special note parents: Make an agreement with your teen that allows your child to call you at any time instead of getting into a car with another teen who has been drinking. Focus on your teen’s safety first. Punishment can come later.
Sources / Additional Information
- Florida Traffic Crash Facts, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV)
- Annual Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics, FDHSMV
- Alcohol-Impaired Driving, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism