Two years ago, a young man approached me after class. He said he could actually drive better when he was drinking, and that the numbers presented in class were unrealistic.
Even though the numbers we discuss in class are research-based, I chose not to argue the point. This young man obviously had his mind made up that he knew more than I, and that was that.
Six weeks later, I heard he was in a crash. I still do not know the extent of his injuries, but I do know he required several surgeries.
Another one of my students said she had no intention of driving on the night she was arrested for DUI. I planned on getting drunk while watching a couple of movies, and go to bed. I rented two movies, bought a twelve-pack, and started doing just that.
After beer number 7 or 8, my daughter called, said her car was broken down, and needed a ride. Her boyfriend was still at work, so I was the chosen one.
On my way to pick her up, I crashed into a brick mailbox.
The bottom line here is obvious. If you drink to impairment, you cannot realistically say what will happen beyond that point.
I hear stories like this on an almost daily basis. The truth is, if you have more than one drink in an hour, you are in danger of something similar happening to you.
If you do this enough, such an event is almost guaranteed.
For most of us, just the thought of losing the things we value most causes feelings of fear, pain, and stress. For people who make high risk choices with alcohol or drugs, however, these losses are not as far removed from their lives as they might believe.
For example, if an individual is arrested for DUI, that person will be sentenced to a minimum of two days in jail. For those who cherish freedom, this can be unbearable. These are two days are not seen again.
This is time that could have been spent with family or friends. Instead, this person is being forced to be somewhere that is somewhat less pleasant, doing something no sane person would choose to do.
A first offense DUI also means the individual will lose driving privileges for approximately one year. This might be in the form of a suspended driver’s license, or being issued a restricted license, in which the person may only drive on certain days or times.
At this point, the individual has lost two major freedoms. But the losses do not stop there.
An increasing number of employers are adopting zero tolerance policies when it comes to drug and alcohol offenses. The chance of the individual being terminated because of this arrest is real, and becoming more likely as awareness of alcohol and drug abuse increases.
This is especially so if the individual’s job is transportation related in any way.
At this point, the person has no job and no driver’s license. Without a license, the individual cannot legally drive to look for a job. The complexity of the situation now begins to become obvious.
Even though the person is no longer employed, court costs and probation fees still must be paid. Failure to pay these will result in re-arrest, causing even more fees, fines, and jail time to be incurred.
Even with an extremely supportive spouse or other family member, relationships are strained to the fullest extent. For example, if the person has been the primary source of income, the spouse may now have to seek employment in order to meet everyday financial obligations. This, in addition to paying for the offender’s court costs and probation fees can create enormous resentment in the marriage.
A less supportive spouse may mean a whole new dimension of stress and turmoil. Marriages and families can be torn apart in this manner.
These are the potential ramifications from only about a simple, first offense DUI. If a crash is involved and other persons are injured or killed, the consequences become much more severe. A crash might also seriously injure or kill the impaired driver.
In some instances, a DUI arrest might save the life of the individual on many different levels. Many view their arrest as a wake up call, and change their lives accordingly.
Most individuals are familiar with health issues arising from alcohol and drug use, but impairment problems are much more common. These include arrests for DUI, as well as other offenses, injuries, fights, damaged relationships, and other family problems.
Impairment problems are not on the minds of most people who drink alcohol. Those with high tolerance, in fact, may believe they are immune to such problems because they do not feel or appear as impaired as those around them.
This is a dangerous illusion, however. In truth, those with high tolerance are much more at risk for impairment problems that those with lower tolerance levels. How do we know this?
The average blood alcohol concentration for impaired drivers is 0.15. If an individual with a low tolerance had as much alcohol in his bloodstream, he would be unconscious.
When drinking alcohol, the higher brain functions are the first to be affected. These are skills like peripheral vision and reaction time. These can be affected at blood alcohol levels much lower than the legal limit of 0.08. Some studies suggest these begin to shut down at levels approximately 0.03. This equates to about one half of a 12 ounce beer in an hour for most people.
Probably the most dangerous aspect of this is that the individual does not realize she is impaired. It is doubtful she will be slurring her speech or stumbling. Because of this, and the fact that she uses those skills to judge whether or not she is impaired, she will believe she is perfectly able to perform actions such as driving a car. Without her higher brain functions operating effectively, however, she is placing herself and others in grave danger.