What can I do to support National Impaired Driving Prevention Month?
December has been named National Impaired Driving Prevention Month (formerly Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month) to increase awareness of a recurring problem of drinking and driving, in a month where people are going to holiday and New Year’s Eve parties. It was renamed to shed light on a lesser known problem: driving while taking illegal drugs or prescription medications. Particularly in the case of prescription medications, most people believe if the physician prescribed it, then it must be okay to take the medication and operate a vehicle, though pharmacies often label prescriptions “do not operate machinery while taking this medication” without specifically mentioning driving.
President Obama recognizes this issue as a national problem and signed a Proclamation which includes the following: “Alcohol and drugs can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory — the skills critical for safe and responsible driving. And as mobile technology becomes ubiquitous, the distractions of texting and cell phone use continue to pose grave dangers on our roadways. Deaths caused by impaired driving are preventable and unacceptable, and my Administration is taking action to reduce and eliminate them. We continue to support the law enforcement officers who work to keep us safe and decrease impaired driving. To help save lives, States and local communities across our Nation will participate in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign from December 12 to January 1, reminding all Americans of their important responsibility.”
Based on the weight variable alone, a person’s blood alcohol content will likely be .08 or higher with the following quantities/time period:
• 110-129 lbs.: 2 drinks in an hour or less
• 130-149 lbs.: 3 drinks in 2 hours or less
• 170-189 lbs.: 4 drinks in 2 hours or less
(Massachusetts’ and New Hampshire’s maximum blood alcohol level is 0.08% and 0.02% if the driver is under 21 years of age. Driving under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts is a crime that is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. In N.H. the first offense comes with a penalty of 10 days in jail, a fine of $500-750 and license suspension for 9-18 months.)
Though driving while under the influence of prescription medications may not be illegal, it can be as dangerous as drink driving. The impact of drugs on the brain is much the same as that of alcohol. “Drugs acting on the brain can alter perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time, and other faculties required for safe driving.” Not only that, but “the effects of specific drugs of abuse differ depending on their mechanisms of action, the amount consumed, the history of the user, and other factors,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
What can you do to minimize the risk of accidents from drugs and alcohol?
1. Parents—speak to your children about the issue in a meaningful, heartfelt way. Let them know they can call you for a ride, even in the middle of the night, rather than take a risk driving with someone who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Teens and young adults often think “my parents will kill me…” and are afraid of getting in trouble, more than being afraid of what will really kill them.
2. Familiarize yourself and your adult children with the definition of a standard drink of each of the various alcoholic beverages, and how much they can drink for their weight before being at the legal limit.
3. Understand how alcohol changes the brain and why staying within low-risk drinking limits are so important. These limits, for example, help a person’s liver keep up with metabolizing the quantity of alcohol consumed and thereby allowing the person to stay in control of his/her brain and therefore his/her thoughts and actions.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) are in support of this national initiative. MADD has these holiday party tips to prevent accidents and potential deaths as a result:
1. Designate a sober driver before celebrations begin;
2. Plan safe parties, including providing non-alcoholic drink options to guests and not serving alcohol the last hour of the gathering;
3. Never serve alcohol to those under the age of 21;
4. If you’ve been drinking, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
5. If you see an impaired driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement;
6. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride with a driver who is impaired, take the driver’s keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
Every one of us at Jaffarian Volvo Toyota Scion wants you to enjoy the upcoming holiday season safely. Don’t be afraid to speak up to someone whose had too much to drink or is drowsy form the influence of medication or drugs. Do not ever get in a vehicle if you don’t feel safe, offer to drive if you are sober and take away the keys from a friend who should not be driving. Enjoy the food and conversation, limit your drinking and do not drink near the end of the evening before you drive home. Before leaving, have some more to eat and drink some coffee. If you’re not sure you’ll be safe, don’t drive—simple as that.
Help make it a safe month on the roads this holiday season.