During the holidays, families and friends gather together for meals, gifts and, sometimes, festive drinks. Champagne toasts, warm rum toddies, and glasses of red wine often go hand-in-hand with the holidays. At the end of the evening, when guests make their way home on icy roads, too much alcohol in the system can turn a night of celebration into tragedy.
While the holiday season is a great time to eat, drink and be merry, celebrating the holidays with alcohol can also lead to an increased number of impaired drivers travelling on our roadways. While everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, many do not realize how much even a little alcohol can affect the body and how long alcohol can remain in the system causing enough reflex impairment to risk reckless driving.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) cautions that alcohol quickly begins its effects on the body and may last for hours. Alcohol often is affecting a person’s perception, coordination, and judgment before the person realizes it. A person may step into their car believing that they are completely competent to drive home. However, alcohol slows reaction time and this may be just long enough of a pause to prevent a driver from applying the brakes, swerving to miss an obstacle or recovering from a small slide on ice or snow.
Long lasting effects
Some people have drinks in the beginning of the evening thinking that the alcohol’s dulling affects will wear off before they must drive home. Then, they might even try to sober up with a cup of coffee. Both of these actions are misconceptions on how alcohol works in the body. Alcohol in the bloodstream can affect the brain for hours, and coffee will not help a person drive home more safely. The body must have time for the alcohol to exit the bloodstream.
If you plan on drinking, do not plan on driving. Plan your safe ride home before you start the party. Designate a sober driver ahead of time. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys, take them home, and help them arrange a sober ride. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. This friendly message is thanks to Drug Free Osage County.