Not only are there legal consequences for being over the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels, but one could potentially injure themselves or others. Accidents involving drinking over the legal BAC can end in death.
In the U.S., almost 30 people die in drunk driving-related accidents every day.
.02 is the lowest level of measurable intoxication. An individual may feel happy and relaxed, but they are likely to make poor decisions.
At a .04 BAC, a person can lose control of small muscles, including focus. Judgment is also impaired. Inhibitions lower and the ability to respond to situations, such as unexpected vehicles or objects in the road, will become more difficult.
Other than the state of Utah, .08 BAC is the legal driving limit in the U.S. It is illegal and unsafe to drive at this percentage. When a person drinks to this level, it results in a loss of coordination, the inability to stay balanced, and problems focusing. Inhibitions are also lowered, so risky behaviors are more common.
At .10 BAC, words become slurred. Thinking and reasoning become diminished. Walking and talking is also difficult. Lastly, though it differs from person to person, vomiting can occur.
A person is 380 times more likely to be in a fatal crash at .15 BAC than when sober. The drinker will be sloppy, have difficulty standing up, may become dizzy, and begin to vomit. Many social drinkers will pass out at this level. Some will pass out behind the wheel.
“Blackouts” begin at .20 BAC. Operating a vehicle while under this level of BAC is incredibly dangerous. At .20 BAC, an individual’s reality is skewed. People may think they are driving a vehicle correctly. In reality, they are swerving, weaving, running red lights, and having trouble staying on the road.
The person may also be “blackout drunk” at this BAC level. This is when the drinker does things they do not remember.
Between .25 and .30 BAC, severe intoxication occurs. The individual will also likely experience an increased heart rate, irregular breathing, mental confusion, dysphoria, nausea, and vomiting. Serious accidents, which include paralysis, brain damage, disfigurement, or even manslaughter, can also occur.
Between .35 and .40 BAC, the individual will experience a loss of consciousness and is on the brink of coma.
.40 BAC results in coma. There is a high chance that death will occur due to respiratory failure.
Drunk driving is extremely dangerous. Not only to the driver, but also to those on the road around the driver operating the vehicle.
The risks of drunk driving and DUIs include, but are not limited to:
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DUIs refer to citations issued by law enforcement to those drinking and driving over the legal limit. In most states, there are seven different types of DUIs.
Risks of DUIs include:
If one witnesses a driver exhibiting any of the following behaviors, the witness should safely pull over to the side of the road or a parking lot and call 911 to report the activity, vehicle in question, and the description of the following acts. Reporting these types of behaviors on the road may just save the life of the driver involved as well as others.
Drinking and driving is not something that a driver can risk. Not only can it cause personal harm or harm to others, but drinking and driving can be detrimental to the driver's future, landing them behind bars with the guilt and shame of harming another person.
However, there are treatment options that exist. There are both inpatient and outpatient programs for treating an addiction to alcohol as well as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which comes from long term alcohol use and dependency.
There are also public forums and groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous that can help those suffering from Alcohol Addiction and those who have multiple DUIs stay sober through a community of like-minded individuals with the same long-term goals, to stay sober and make amends with those they’d hurt and affected with their drinking.
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Esteban-Muir, R. P. (2012, September). Community-Based Impaired-Driving Programs: Local Ordinances and Other Strategies Addressing Impaired Driving. (Report No. DOT HS 811 678). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration., https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/811678.pdf
Anonymous. “Drunk Driving.” NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17 Jan. 2020, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.
“DriveitHOME.” National Safety Council - Our Mission Is Safety, National Safety Council, 2020, www.nsc.org/driveithome/teen-driver-risks/impaired-driving.
Monico, Nicolle. “Blood Alcohol Level: BAC Chart Content Meanings.” Alcohol.org, 1 May 2020, www.alcohol.org/effects/blood-alcohol-concentration/.