Get Healthy Carson City: Drunk driving is bad way to start New Year
December 27, 2016
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
This Saturday, we will kick off another trip around the sun as people around the world ring in 2017. Traditionally, New Year's Eve is a night of celebration, with festivities continuing until midnight or even later at many local venues. While party-going is a time honored tradition, Carson City Health and Human Services asks that you make the responsible choice by choosing to not drink and drive.
According to the National Safety Council, people are more likely to drink and drive around Jan. 1. Nearly half of all traffic fatalities during the New Year's travel period in 2010 were alcohol related. Between 2007 and 2011, alcohol accounted for 42 percent of all New Year's traffic deaths. You can avoid being a statistic by taking steps to keep yourself and others on the road safe.
Designate a sober driver BEFORE you start drinking;
Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation if you are impaired;
Take advantage of local sober ride programs;
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Call 911 if a drunk driver is spotted on the road;
Take the keys or help make travel arrangements for someone who is about to drive impaired.
Many New Year's revelers get into trouble because they fail to recognize that critical driving-related skills and decision-making abilities are affected long before they begin to show the obvious physical signs of intoxication. People who drink infrequently may not be aware of their limits and are even more prone to becoming intoxicated.
When consuming alcohol, your inhibitions and judgment are quickly affected, even if you don't realize it. This increases the chance of making a dangerous decision to get behind the wheel. Continued drinking can lead to the slurred speech and loss of coordination and balance that we typically associate with being "drunk." By the time someone is visibly intoxicated, their ability to operate a motor vehicle is severely compromised, and they are a risk to themselves and everyone else on the road.
Many party-goers believe that they can drive safely once they have stopped drinking for the night. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been consumed. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body. As a result, judgment and coordination can be impaired for hours after drinking. Driving home late at night, as many people do in the early hours of the New Year, is especially hazardous because natural drowsiness is magnified by the depressant action of alcohol.
No one intends to harm anyone when they get behind the wheel. This New Year's Eve, and every day, do not underestimate the effects of alcohol. Be aware of how much alcohol you've consumed throughout the night, and as you think about the consequences of an arrest or a potentially fatal traffic crash, make alternative plans to get home safely.