Drunk driving can affect any of us at any time. Alcohol-related accidents happen around the clock and involve drinkers and non-drinkers, alike. There are, however, certain things we can identify as risk factors for drunk driving. These risk factors hold true across the board and can help you become more mindful of the potential dangers in your partying environment.
Binge drinkers make up a large number of drunk drivers. Of the drinking and driving episodes self-reported by adults in 2010, 85% of the drivers were binge drinkers. Binge drinking is on the rise around the country, especially among underage drinkers. High school and college students are more likely to engage in the behavior, which has a disastrous effect if they get behind the wheel.
Binge drinkers drink way more than an average drinker, reaching the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) quickly. For an inexperienced drinker, this means that by the time all of the “binge” alcohol hits, he or she could already be driving, and well over that BAC limit. These underage drinkers can be ordered to install a car breathalyzer or ignition interlock device, just like adults, showing that the law doesn’t excuse a drunk driver from the consequences of his or her own actions.
Another risk factor for drunk driving is biological sex. Men are more likely than women to get behind the wheel and drive after drinking. In 2010, men made up 81% of the drunk drivers on the road. Within the group of men, another factor comes into play: age. While men aged 21-34 years old make-up only 11% of the adult population, they made up 32% of the drunk drivers in 2010. Across the board, males drink and drive far more often than women, causing far more alcohol-related injuries and fatalities.
So far, these risk factors might make sense. After all, if you are binge drinking, it isn’t surprising that drinking that much impairs anyone’s judgment. Plus, males tend to engage in risky behaviors more often than women. But, another risk factor for drunk driving that we might not suspect is a race: white adults report drinking and driving 50% more often than Asian, Latino, or African Americans.
Of course, the biggest risk factor for drunk driving is to drink and then get behind the wheel of your car. So, when you are out drinking, keep your own risk factors in mind. You never know what information could save your life, or the lives of others on the roads.