We now know that there is a problem with drunk driving. In order to find out what can be done to stop this problem, we must identify the cause of the problem. People are driving drunk. Why?
Alcohol-induced loss of judgement: After three or four drinks, a drinker's good judgement is undermined by alcohol. After drinking, it will often fail to cross the mind of the drinker that getting in a car while in his or her current condition could be fatal. Also, alcohol often has the consequence of boosting confidence. A controlled demonstration was done at the University of Kentucky by an organization known as BACCHUS, in which campus leaders drove a simple course on the parking lot laid out with cones to represent pedestrians. At half-hour intervals, the leaders drank another drink and drove the course again. In less than two hours, the leaders were boasting about their performance -- but several cones lay knocked down.
Lack of planning: Since alcohol can impair judgement, it is essential to plan in advance for any consumption. If you are going someplace to drink, you must consider how you are going to get back. If you don't make a plan in advance, you may not be sober enough when the party is over to make a safe decision on how to get home. This is the primary reason many people end up driving drunk. They hadn't planned on getting drunk, they failed to arrange a ride, they didn't plan on calling a taxi. The right thing to do is to always make sure that you know how you are going to get home if you plan on drinking, and if you don't plan on drinking, to actually refrain from drinking. With simple, proper planning, drunk driving is easily avoided.
Rationalization: "My home is only a few minutes away. What could happen?" This thought crosses the minds of drunk drivers all too often. Especially when judgement is compromised by alcohol, people will rationalize, until the idea of driving while drunk doesn't seem that bad after all. "I've driven home before drunk, I can do it again." If you have driven once while drunk, you should consider yourself lucky to be alive to remember it. Doing it twice is pushing that luck. This kind of thinking is either recklessness or stupidity. Once somebody has driven drunk once, it seems many get a false sense of security. This ties in closely with:
Overconfidence: "I drive better while drunk!" Also closely related to the effects on the brain by alcohol, overconfidence is created when one has already driven drunk and survived it. Many seem to think that their driving skills are enhanced by alcohol (see the BACCHUS demonstration described above).
Lack of education: A frightening number of people are unaware of the effects that drinking can have on driving skills. Because both drinking and driving separately are such normal parts of many people's lives, they do not think to draw a connection between the two. This seems painfully ignorant to us, but it happens. However, since education on drunk driving has increased in recent years, the focus on driving under the influence of alcohol has overshadowed the real issue, driving under the influence of drugs. While most know that driving drunk is risky, the issue has been overlooked that driving under the influence of any drug can be very risky. And this means any drug -- from decongestants to marijuana. Serious drug users tend to be even more intoxicated than drunk people, so one must not overlook the risks of driving under the influence of drugs. But the most overlooked of all is over the counter drugs (OTCs). To see just how dangerous these can be, go to chapter 2.
Pressure: What teenager would not have second thoughts about calling home to say that he or she has been drinking alcohol -- illegally -- and now needs a ride home? Who wants to put their friends through the inconvenience of letting them stay the night because they got too drunk? The decisions to do these things are difficult, but they can mean the difference between life or death. Any parent would rather pick up their child drunk at a party than dead at a morgue. Any host would gladly see a guest off sober in the morning than drunk and dangerous at night.
All these reasons are closely related, and they all make it easy to find yourself driving drunk. But with just a little planning, and knowledge of the situation, you could save your life, or somebody else's.