The most painful thing about the tragedies caused by drunk driving is that they’re completely preventable by drivers who drink. With options to use designated drivers or public transportation services, there is simply no excuse whatsoever for any person to ever drive drunk. Thanks to tireless work from the several awareness campaigns aimed at eliminating driving under the influence, current statistics on drunk driving indicate a lowering trend in this problem throughout the past three decades. To be exact, there are around half as many drunk drivers on the road today as there were at this time in the 1980s. Even so, as much as one death or injury caused by a drunk driver is just one too many. It’s easy to get lost in a maze of statistics about this issue, but grasping the details of how alcohol biologically affects us in the short-term is an essential part of understanding exactly why no one is immune to the inebriating effects of alcohol.
Alcohol is an ingredient in beer, wine, and spirits which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars. It’s classified as a depressant because when metabolized, it triggers an intoxicating sensation in the human body. Alcohol specifically slows down the central nervous system by diminishing muscular coordination, intellectual comprehension and reaction to physiological stimuli. These effects are what make alcoholic beverages popular for recreation. Unfortunately they are the exact reason why alcohol is dangerous when consumed before driving.
Driving in itself is an activity that requires complete concentration and physical coordination. To begin with, all drivers have to memorize and drive in accordance with the Highway Code. Furthermore, using the controls on any vehicle entails a strong ability to multitask. Even further, all drivers need continuous environmental awareness in order to prevent or avoid collisions in real-time. Consuming a substance that could interfere with either of these processes creates a high probability of disaster. The reduced cognitive awareness brought about by alcohol directly works against every skill and sense that is necessary to drive safely.
People absorb alcohol differently based on biology. Correspondingly this means that people get drunk at different paces based on biology as well. For instance, individuals with low body weight are more likely to feel the effects of alcohol faster, primarily because they have less tissue in which to store alcohol. It takes the average healthy liver one hour to metabolize one ounce of alcohol. Consuming alcoholic beverages in amounts that surpasses this rate saturates the body with said alcohol until it’s completely processed through digestion. The more time alcohol has to remain in the body as the liver breaks it down, the more intoxication an individual experiences.
California law sets the following statutory limits on Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC):
If a person is 21 years old or older, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
If a person is under 21 years old, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.
If a person is on DUI probation, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.