• 66% think current drunk driving penalties are not harsh enough. 
  • 1 in 4 admit they would still drive first thing in the morning after a big night of drinking.
  • Infographic on zero-tolerance opinions by state.

The NHTSA reports that across the United States, nearly 30 people are killed each day in drunk-driving accidents, which equates to roughly one preventable death every 50 minutes due to irresponsible driving. Despite the legal consequences of drunk driving, it appears that so long as alcohol is legal and people drive cars, there will be incidents that involve intoxicated road use – with some, unfortunately, resulting in fatalities. The federal limit to legally operate a vehicle in the US is 0.08% blood alcohol content, however, in 2018, Utah implemented the strictest blood-alcohol driving limits in the country dropping from 0.08% to just 0.05% blood or breath alcohol concentration.

DesertHopeTreatment.com conducted a survey of 3,445people to determine how they feel about implementing a statewide 0% drinking and driving tolerance policy, and found that almost 1 in 3 (31%) Marylanders support the idea – this compares to a national average of 33%. On a national level, women are far more supportive of this idea with 40% agreeing compared to 28% of men.

Any amount of alcohol in the system reduces the skills necessary for safe driving, including impaired judgment, vision, color distinction, and reaction time. With Utah’s 0.05% BAC limit, the NHTSA compared data from the last full year before the legislation was passed and the first year in which the lower legal limit was in place. This comparison showed that Utah had a reduced traffic fatality rate by 18.3% and there were 19.8% fewer fatal accidents in 2019 even though drivers logged more driving miles. 

Infographic showing zero tolerance opinions by state

The survey also discovered that a significant portion of respondents do not believe drunk driving penalties are harsh enough with 66% agreeing that this is the case. And, reassuringly, 3 in 4 said they would report a friend or family who decided to drive drunk.

Worryingly, it was found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) respondents believe it’s worse to use a cell phone while driving than it is to drive while under the influence. Distracted driving in any way, shape, or form poses a direct risk to the driver their passengers, as well as other vehicles and pedestrians on the road; in 2019, more than 3,100 lost their lives. Using a phone detracts the driver’s attention away from the road much in the same way, intoxicated driving affects the driver’s mental state. In both circumstances, the driver loses effective to focus on the road. Another concerning find from the survey revealed that 33% of respondents said they weren’t aware of the 0.08% BAC figure to legally drive a car.

The data also uncovered that nearly 1 in 4 (24%) drinkers admit they would still drive first thing in the morning after a big night of drinking. Although the legal limit is 0.08% in most states, this volume of alcohol still has the ability to impair a person’s driving ability when it comes to factors like short-term memory loss, reduced information processing capability, and impaired perception. In fact, in 2018, there were 1,878 people killed in alcohol-related car accidents in which drivers had BACs under the legal limit.

There is no definitive answer on how long it takes for a person to metabolize alcohol and reach a state of total sobriety, and driving after a night of drinking is highly discouraged. It is imperative to remember that driving with a BAC at any level presents a serious risk to yourself and every other person on the road. Getting behind the wheel at any level of intoxication should not happen and is something that can be avoided via a number of available alternatives. It is wise to make plans regarding transportation prior to a night of drinking or have some other plan in place that would prevent anyone who is intoxicated from operating a vehicle.

Excessive drinking causes a host of other issues besides eliminating a person’s ability to drive safely. If drinking in this manner is a common occurrence, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol or seek the help of a qualified addiction professional.  

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