Health & Wellness December 2, 2020

Drinking and Driving During the Holidays

Zena L., Editor

There’s no doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic will make this year’s holiday celebrations different. Some people will choose to stay home and stay put. Others will visit with a few friends or family members in a low-key fashion, while still others will get together in groups. However Americans celebrate this year, we must not forget to keep our alcohol intake in check, especially if we are driving. Please stay safe - don’t be drinking and driving this holiday season!

Drinking and Driving Facts

Consuming alcohol reduces brain function. It impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential for operating a vehicle safely.

  • About 15.1 million adult Americans aged 18 and older abuse alcohol or are alcoholics, although most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol-dependent.
  • One in six American adults binge drink about four times a month.
  • In 2018, 29% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.
  • In 2018, 10,511 people died in alcohol-related crashes.
  • One-third of drunk driving offenses come from repeat offenders.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia have a legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving.

More on BAC

In every U.S. state, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% is the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle for adults aged 21 years or older. Adults younger than 21 are not allowed to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system. Despite this, it’s important to know that a person’s BAC can be well below the legal limit and still cause impairment. For example, even a BAC of 0.02% can cause some loss of judgment and have some effects on driving (decline in visual functions and in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time).

What Is a Standard Drink, and What Are the Guidelines?

One standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (about 5% alcohol).
  • 5 ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol).
  • 5 ounces of hard liquor/distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol).

Women should not have more than one drink per day and should not drink at all if they are pregnant. Drinking as few as three drinks per sitting or more than seven drinks per week is considered “heavy drinking” and can result in alcohol-related problems.

Men should have no more than two drinks per day. Drinking as few as four drinks per sitting or having more than 14 drinks per week is considered “heavy drinking” and may result in alcohol-related problems.

How to Stay Safe at Holiday Gatherings of Any Size

If you are a guest at a party, dinner or gathering:

  • Designate a non-drinking buddy and give that person the car keys before the event begins, or have a sober designated driver accompany you.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you are out on your own and realize you are impaired, arrange with the host to stay overnight, or call a friend (who hasn’t been drinking) or a taxi/Uber for a ride home.

If you are hosting a party, dinner or gathering:

  • Take each person’s keys when they arrive at the event and return them only when you’re sure the person isn’t impaired.
  • Have an extra sleeping space set up (a couch, a sleeping bag or air mattress on the floor) so guests that are too drunk to drive can stay the night.
  • Offer alcohol-free beverages.
  • Ensure that before guests leave they are either sober or with a sober designated driver.
  • If people under the age of 21 are present, ensure that they do not consume alcoholic beverages.

To learn more about avoiding drunk driving and alcohol abuse, whether it be for this holiday season or any day of the year, explore the QuickSeries® library of health and wellness guides, including Freedom From Alcohol.

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