Designate a driver

Almost 30 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes every day—that’s one person every 48 minutes. In 2017, there were 10,874 deaths from alcohol-impaired driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Emergency physicians see firsthand the tragic consequences of impaired driving and urge you to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day safely this year.

“Avoidable choices like drinking and driving can lead to lives lost or irreparably changed,” said Dr. Vidor Friedman, president of ACEP. “Be smart and take public transportation. Or, designate a driver, before any celebration begins. If you are in an area where motorized scooters are popular, don’t drink and scoot. If you are a parent, talk to your teens about the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol. It’s important to remember that no drink is worth risking your safety or your life.”

No safe level of alcohol can be consumed prior to driving. Impairment begins as soon as alcohol can be detected in the blood stream, which can happen after even one drink. Your ability to pay attention is affected and your reaction time is affected. Peripheral vision and other cognitive functions are impaired at levels that vary from person to person. Anyone with a 0.08 blood alcohol level can show impairment in terms of critical driving tasks, including braking, steering, lane changing, making judgments, and maintaining attention.

Anyone who drinks and drives is a problem drinker. Young people are most at risk because their inexperience puts them at greater risk for traffic crashes at any level of blood alcohol. And teenagers generally have lower tolerance for alcohol than adults.

Combined with other risk-taking behaviors exhibited by this age group, such as speeding and aggressive driving, alcohol raises the risk of crashes significantly. Every state and the District of Columbia has 0.08 BAC laws in effect, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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