No doubt that you’ve heard the message a thousand times on TV or on the radio: Driving after drinking is deadly. Yet, drunk driving continues to be the cause of many fatal crashes in the United States, including in Colorado. In 2015, Colorado saw the highest number of car accident deaths since 2008, and law enforcement officials say 32 percent of the accidents involved driving under the influence.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that every day in the U.S., 28 people die in alcohol-related crashes. In 2015, more than 10,000 people died in car accidents involving an impaired driver — that’s one person every 53 minutes. That year the deaths included 181 children under the age of 14. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) puts the statistic another way:
On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
Alcohol’s Effects on Your Driving Ability
We’ve all heard the term BAC, which stands for blood alcohol concentration. If you blow into a breathalyzer, it will measure the amount of alcohol in your breath, in terms of BAC. In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
However, even a small amount of alcohol can reduce your driving ability. NHTSA notes that in 2014, 1,764 people were killed in alcohol-related auto accidents where BAC was less than 0.08 BAC.
To better understand what happens when your BAC number rises, here’s a brief overview of physical and mental changes that can occur:
- BAC of .02 percent: Minor loss of judgment, reduced visual function, lower ability to complete two tasks simultaneously
- BAC of .05 percent: Exaggerated behavior, potential loss of small-muscle control such as focusing one’s eyes, impaired judgment, lowered alertness, difficulty controlling steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations
- BAC of .08 percent: Muscle coordination is reduced, leading to potential inability to maintain balance and control speech, delayed reaction time, difficulty in detecting danger, loss of self-control and reasoning, and impaired memory
- BAC of .10 percent: Clear deterioration of response time, slurred speech, lack of coordination
- BAC of .15 percent: Far less muscle control than normal, possible vomiting, critically reduced balance and inability to control vehicle
Colorado’s R-U-Buzzed App
Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has developed an R-U-Buzzed app, a calculator to help drinkers gauge their BAC level. A user enters basic information, including weight, gender, and the number of drinks consumed in a given time. The app then compares the user’s estimated BAC with Colorado’s DUI and DWAI laws.
The app will even let the user know how much time it will take to be completely sober after stopping drinking. You can go to the CDOT’s website or to the Google App Store and download it for free. It’s a tool that can save your life or others.