According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. That is one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, these deaths reached the lowest percentage since 1982 when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data. This “low percentage” still meant that 10,142 people lost their lives that year. These deaths were all preventable.
Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol can be deadly. Though we might not feel impaired, any amount of alcohol in the bloodstream can have an impact on one’s ability to drive. Concentration, judgment and reaction time are all negatively impacted by alcohol, and they are all important aspects of safe driving.
Reduced concentration is often a result of drinking, no matter how much alcohol you consume. When driving, there are so many things that require our undivided attention, such as staying in our lane, monitoring our speed and being aware of other cars or objects on the road. Attention span dramatically falls when we drink, which in turn, significantly increases the chances of an accident.
Judgment skills are required for making good decisions in all circumstances we find ourselves in. For example, we need to be able to foresee potential problems in order to drive defensively. Judgment is also necessary in navigating situations, like being cut off by another driver, in a manner that maintains safety for everyone.
Reaction times are slower with alcohol in our system, which also increases the likelihood of an accident. If the car in front of us brakes suddenly or someone runs into the street, it takes longer for the brain to process the situation if we have been drinking.
None of us are immune to the effects of alcohol, but we are all in control of whether or not we decide to drive after drinking. As of last year (according to NHTSA), about 290,000 people in the United States were injured in accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers every year. Do you really want to be part of the statistic?
You can start doing better right now. You can make a plan to take better care of yourself and everyone else out there. Maybe it is using an Uber or a Lyft. Maybe it is identifying a designated driver. Maybe you give someone else your keys if you start drinking, so you are not tempted to drive. Maybe you spend the night if you are at a friend’s house.
Do you find yourself coming up with lots of reasons why you do not need to have a plan? Too many lives have come to an end tragically due to people driving while under the influence. As if that were not a big enough cost, there is also mandatory jail time for first offenses, plus increased fines and fees. The Department has also made changes to the discipline following an alcohol-related incident: two times and you are done. You have a choice to make. Is it worth your career?
If you want help coming up with a plan or figuring out how to stick to it, make a commitment to doing things differently.
The Psychological Services Bureau (PSB)/Substance Abuse Resource Program is an excellent place to get support and/or resources. This will be one of your best calls to preserve your future success: (213) 738-3500. You can also contact the Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF) from the list above. Or, if you prefer, there are numerous Peer Support members throughout the Department, and chaplains are also available. Whichever lane you choose to take, it’s confidential.