It’s a much too common tale: You go out with friends, swap stories and share laughs over drinks, and as the evening comes to an end, you’ve lost track of how many drinks you’ve had. You’re then faced with a decision: “Am I okay to drive?”
Choosing to drink and drive carries a lot of risks, from a DUI to a traffic fatality. In fact, about 10,000 people are killed in drunk driving crashes each year, according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those drunk driving deaths account for nearly 31% of all traffic deaths.
It’s no secret that drunk driving is dangerous. Yet, adults reported drinking and driving about 112 million times in 2010, according to the CDC. If we know how dangerous it is, why do people continue to drink and drive? The truth is, most people don’t set out to drink and drive, so the reasons go beyond a simple mistake.
According to a study from the NHTSA, drunk driving results from a combination of decisions about drinking and decisions about driving. These decisions can occur when you first decide to go to an event where you’ll consume alcohol and determine how you’ll get there and back or after social and environmental, personal, economical, or other influences have encouraged you drink more than planned. Here are some common reasons people decide to drive while impaired:
- A false sense of relaxation and confidence resulting from an altered state of mind and perception
- Inability to judge one’s own sobriety and physical limitations
- Inability to make rational decisions and think critically
- Feeling too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for a ride or call someone to pick them up
- Forgetting how many drinks they’ve consumed
- Feeling safe after habitually driving while impaired and not getting caught
While you might say to yourself that you would never drink and drive, it’s not completely unlikely to find yourself in that situation at some point. The best way to prevent yourself from making the decision to drink and drive is to know your limits and always plan ahead, whether you designate a sober driver or bring money and a phone number for a cab.