While you may be looking forward to turkey and pumpkin pie, statistics show you should actually be wary of the upcoming holiday as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the combination of drinking, long-distance car trips, and a four-day weekend make Thanksgiving the most dangerous traffic holiday of the year—especially as drivers are unlikely to realize their own impairment.
The Dangers of Increased BAC Behind the Wheel
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of end-of-the-year drinking holidays; in fact, “Thanksgiving Eve” is one of the biggest bar nights of the entire year. As a person drinks, the alcohol in beverages is absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream, increasing his blood alcohol concentration (BAC). As BAC goes up, a person’s body and brain become more impaired, making it less and less possible for him to drive a motor vehicle safely.
Here are a few levels of impairment, and their corresponding symptoms:
- .02 BAC. After just one drink, a person may begin to relax and feel warm, and experience a small amount of impaired judgment. A person may also suffer a decline in visual acuity or shorter attention span, but often does not notice these as they are happening.
- .05 BAC. After two or three drinks, a person may begin to show exaggerated behavior and body movement, as well as difficulty focusing their eyes. As lowered alertness and reduced coordination begin to take hold, drivers will have trouble concentrating on objects in the road, and will respond more slowly to emergency driving situations.
- .08 BAC. It is illegal to drive with this level of intoxication or higher, and for good reason. All muscle control and cognitive function—including speech, vision, coordination, and balance—are heavily compromised. In addition, self-control, judgment of danger, and memory are significantly affected, making drivers more likely to speed, make exaggerated movements behind the wheel, and fail to see traffic signals or objects in the road.
A person’s BAC can be affected by a number of factors, including how quickly he or she is drinking, the number of drinks he or she has had, his or her weight and gender, and how much food is in his or her system. As impairment varies from person to person, it is notoriously difficult to determine whether or not someone has had too much to drink—and even harder for someone to assess her own impairment. In fact, one of the symptoms of impairment is failure to realize one’s own drunkenness.
Choose a Designated Driver Before You Dig in!
The easiest way to avoid causing a drunk driving accident on Thanksgiving is to not drink alcohol. However, for those who want to imbibe, an alternate solution is to appoint a designated driver before you begin to toast the season. Any amount of alcohol can prove deadly to a driver, so plan on hanging up the keys regardless of how you feel at the end of the night. You can carpool to the event with a non-drinking friend of family member, program the number of a taxi service on your cell phone before dinner, or even plan to stay at your host’s house overnight.
Stop the cycle of drunk driving crashes on Thanksgiving weekend! Share this article on Facebook or via email to help others make the right choices when drinking over the holidays.