Blackout Wednesday: Your Holiday DUI Disaster

blackout wednesday disasterBlackout Wednesday. Thanksgiving Eve. The unofficial start of the holiday season, where we wait anxiously for family members to start arriving or head out to bars to start the holiday parties. Whether or not you are intentionally drinking to the point of blacking out, or just having a few more drinks than normal (it is a holiday, after all), keep in mind that the unofficial start of the holiday season is also the official start of holiday DUI arrests, convictions, and worse.

Drinking to the point of blacking out is not only dangerous on the roads. You could also find yourself waking up in the emergency room, or not waking up at all.

When we drink, we can stay at a relatively safe level if we limit ourselves to one standard drink (one serving of beer, wine or spirits) per hour. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to follow when you have an abundance of alcohol at hand, and no reason to go home early. Blackout Wednesday occurs at a time where most people are trying to get their drunk on, which leads to extreme binge drinking behaviors.

Binge drinking and Blackout Wednesday go together like peas and carrots.

The result is a person who has consumed more alcohol than can be processed in a safe amount of time. That means by the time those last three shots have hit, that person may be behind the wheel of a car or happily slipping into a coma.

While we tend to point out a consequence for too much drinking is a DUI, ignition interlock device, or a night in jail, it is vital to remember that a DUI is not the only consequence for overdoing it. When it comes to holiday traditions, perhaps Blackout Wednesday is one we can all agree is not exactly a feel-good family activity. Stay sober, stay safe, and stay alive this holiday season.

Drinking Could Be Healthy, DUI Still Isn’t

drinking may be healthy, dui is notIf you like to drink, you probably welcome the news that says alcohol can be a healthy part of any lifestyle. Maybe you also look away from the headlines that say too much drinking is bad, not even thinking about the DUI dangers we face. Evidently we aren’t the only ones who are tired of the scientific roller coaster of news about drinking. Right now, a landmark study is being developed in order to answer, once and for all, whether or not drinking is healthy.

We’re pretty sure the roller coaster will just keep on coasting.

While that all gets underway, we just want to point out that it doesn’t matter how healthy drinking is or isn’t, if we are still out there drinking and driving. A DUI is the result of bad choices, whether within the limits of what we think is healthy or during a night of extreme binge drinking.

DUI laws across the country set the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit at .08 percent. For a person of average weight, that means no more than three or four drinks total in a four- to six-hour period. Some states will even charge and convict you of a lesser drunk driving charge if your BAC doesn’t meet the .08 percent limit, but you are clearly impaired while driving.

Last year, there were more people on the roads driving under the influence of alcohol, than in previous years. Some attribute that to fewer resources for law enforcement, but the root of the problem is pretty simple: people choosing to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. For anyone who already has a DUI, there are ignition interlock devices and other tools to prevent further incidents. For those who have yet to experience the dangers of drunk driving, that decision can only be prevented by common sense, a plan for a safe ride home or the concern of others.

What Happens at Different Blood Alcohol Levels?

high BAC hardcoreBlood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is the measure used to define how much alcohol is in a person’s blood. It is also used for legal purposes in a DUI or drunk driving case.  The more alcohol consumed, the higher the BAC level, because the body processes alcohol at a consistent rate, and drinking tends to outpace alcohol metabolism. When one drinks more than the body can process, alcohol levels rise and cause intoxication, leading to the possibility of driving drunk and DUI consequences.

BAC Levels and the effects:

.02 percent BAC: The body gets warm and somewhat relaxed, and judgment is altered slightly. Visual functions decline, as does the ability to multi-task.

.05 percent BAC: Inhibitions are lowered, as well as coordination and alertness. The eyes may be slower to focus or track objects, and reaction times are delayed.

.08 percent BAC: As the legal limit that defines intoxication, this BAC level shows significant problems with coordination. Speech, motor control, hearing, and vision are all affected, and reaction time significantly declines. This level of intoxication creates a true danger on the road.

.10 percent BAC: Speech is slurred, and, the ability to think or move appropriately has deteriorated. As this level is above the legal limit, there is a stronger danger involved and even less ability to make correct judgment calls.

.15 percent BAC: Considered a hardcore, high BAC level in many states in legal, DUI terms. Once a person reaches this level, they may already be vomiting, as well as exhibiting a true difficulty walking or even sitting.

.25 percent BAC and above: loss of consciousness, “alcohol poisoning,” and death are possible consequences to this level.

When drinking, keep in mind that the more one drinks, the less a person is able to judge one’s own level of intoxication. Understanding the effects of drinking on the body and mind. Then set a limit before drinking, and to stick with it, or plan for a safe ride home with a designated driver or taxi.

Your DUI Personality is Showing

DUI-personality-problem man drinkingPeople say and do all sorts of things when drinking. Some people drink to relax and become the life of the party. Others may drink and become angry or withdrawn. The common theme is blaming the alcohol, which is also a big part of a DUI. But when people say drinking changes their personality, how much of that is true?

Not much, according to a recent study. When drinking, we all have to take on responsibility for our actions. If we drink and drive, end up with an ignition interlock device, that is our fault. If we become karaoke superstars, that’s our fault. If we destroy property or insult our boss, that’s our responsibility, too. Our personalities don’t have a magic switch, but alcohol probably just allows those aspects of ourselves shine a little brighter (or scarier) as our inhibitions are lessened. That’s actually a big reason people drink and drive, their judgment is impaired and may do things that aren’t part of their normal routine… all because of alcohol.

Fun fact: the reason you make bad decisions while drinking is that alcohol causes the brain to release dopamine. Heavy drinking produces so much dopamine, you can no longer understand the difference between healthy and good decisions and those that can put you in the doghouse… or in jail. Alcohol use and abuse is a leading factor in many property crimes, sexual assaults, DUIs and other behaviors that don’t normally occur when a brain is functioning normally.

Alcohol may not change personalities, but it definitely needs to be considered a factor in decisions, whether those decisions are DUI based, or interpersonal. There’s only so much a person can blame on alcohol, and since there’s no ignition interlock device for personalities, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep their own attitudes in check when they’ll be drinking.

Why is Binge Drinking Bad?

Binge drinking is badAlcohol isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon… except perhaps into our bellies as we toss back a cold one or sip on a favorite local wine. The majority of adults in the U.S. admit to drinking alcohol from time to time, and some of those even admit to binge drinking. In fact, if you wanted to know how many of your neighbors were binge drinking, there’s even a ranking of states you can refer to as you plan your weekend fun (including a designated driver, of course).

But as exciting as the idea of binge drinking can sound, you have to know that it is pretty bad for you and your neighbors. When you binge drink, you are consuming anywhere from 4-5 drinks in a very short time period (about two hours), meaning you:

  • Aren’t allowing enough time to metabolize the alcohol.
  • Are increasing the burden on your body and mind to function normally (walking, talking, etc.).
  • Are likely making bad decisions while your body continues to try to process the alcohol.
  • Are in danger of driving while intoxicated and likely “super drunk” from your binge.
  • Could commit a crime.
  • Could die.

Plus, binge drinking isn’t just for those crazy kids who just turned 21. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that binge drinkers aged 65 years and older drink more often than the younger crowd at the bar, about five to six times a month compared to around 4 times per month, respectively.

If the thought of a drunk driving conviction, an ignition interlock requirement and possible injury on the roads isn’t enough reason to drink responsibly, remember that you could possibly be hurting your body in ways you haven’t considered when you binge drink. We are a culture that enjoys its alcohol, no matter the time of year or occasion, we just need to make sure that we are enjoying that alcohol responsibly and within moderation.

Ignition Interlocks Stop Binge Drinkers

No binge drinking with an ignition interlockBinge drinking is one of those alcohol-soaked activities that is shared by the college crowd and their older-and-wiser parents and grandparents, alike. With little time at the end of the day to fully enjoy a relaxing drink, it’s not uncommon to see friends at a bar toss back four or more drinks in an hour, then head home. But, even if that doesn’t seem as bad as a keg stand or a night of drinking games, it is still binge drinking, and it can be deadly.

Binge drinking plays a big role in drunk driving incidents, and it can be a reason that an offender is required to install an ignition interlock device. For instance, not all states have all-offender ignition interlock laws, but, all states do require the devices for those with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). That high BAC is often caused by binge drinking, especially when a driver leaves a party feeling fine and ends up well over the limit by the time the full force of the  alcohol “binge” hits.

The way an ignition interlock works naturally “catches” a binge drinker in the act. From the first BAC sample submitted, the device records the data and stores it. If, somehow, that sample is lower than the limit on the device (usually around .02 percent), the drunk driving offender is allowed to start driving, while the alcohol that was just consumed is given time to be metabolized. By the time the next test, a “rolling re-test” happens, the BAC in that sample will obviously be over the limit set on the device, catching a binge drinker before they are dangerous on the road again and insisting they pull over and stop their vehicle. After that, they cannot drive that car, and their BAC data will be seen by their reporting agency, probation officer and/or the court.

Stopping anyone before they drive under the influence of alcohol is important, but a binge drinker may not have the obvious signs of intoxication until it is much too late. Ignition interlock devices not only keep those high BAC offenders from re-offending, they stop binge drinkers in the act, creating safer streets for us all.

Why Do People Binge Drink?

binge drinkingRecently, a woman won a steak-eating contest, consuming over 200 ounces of meat in 20 minutes. The crowd cheered, spurring her onto victory as she took home $6,000 in prize money for the feat. Food eating contests are a great way to show what a “binge” is, as we watch men and women ingest ginormous volumes of hot dogs, pies or snack cakes. Then, we ask, “HOW do they do it?” “WHY do they do it?” and proclaim, “That CAN’T be healthy!”

We don’t know how they do it, but it is usually done for a prize, or at least bragging rights… and no, it’s not the healthiest way to eat.

Binge drinking follows a similar path. Defined as a man drinking five or more drinks in two hours, or a woman drinking four or more drinks during the same time, binge drinking is not only dangerous for the person drinking, but for others who may be impacted by their behavior. Drinking and driving is common among binge drinkers, especially if they get into their vehicle before fully processing the alcohol that was consumed. By the time they’re well into their drive, the extra alcohol can hit, turning a fairly sober person into a dangerous situation within a very small span of time.

With the dangers involved, why do people binge drink?  People binge drink to quickly relax, or because of inexperience with alcohol. Some people binge drink to quickly forget their problems, while others really want those bragging rights – that they can drink more than their friends… or those same friends are encouraging the binge. Unfortunately, no matter the reasoning, it just isn’t a good habit, and it could cost you in the long run financially, physically or even with the frustration of an ignition interlock device if you’re convicted of drinking and driving.

Moderation is the key, they say, to a healthy life. Obviously, any kind of “binge” isn’t a moderate activity. Instead of seeing who can eat or drink themselves into a stupor, take your time with friends and enjoy the experience of a regular meal, even with a drink… then find a safe, sober ride home.

DUI in Florida: Are Senior Citizens at Risk?

senior citizen duiAs the infamous “Baby Boomer” generation begins to retire and enjoy the perks that a lifetime of hard work and experience can bring, there are indications that age does not always cultivate wisdom, especially when it comes to drinking and driving. In states like Florida, for example, 17.3 percent of residents were over the age of 65, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The retirement lifestyle in Florida combined with a lower cost of living and warm temperatures all continue to attract more Boomers and senior citizens, but, is that large population increasing the likelihood of being convicted of DUI in Florida?

The risk of a DUI in Florida for senior citizens can come from several factors, including:

  • Driving safety concerns like eyesight and reaction time that can further deteriorate with the consumption of alcohol.
  • Men and women over the age of 65 metabolize food and drinks much slower, allowing alcohol to remain in the system for a longer period of time.
  • Medications that can amplify the effects of alcohol.

In addition, a CDC study has found that senior citizens tend to binge drink more often than younger drinkers, while AAA has stated that by the year 2030, 1 in 5 U.S. drivers will be over the age of 65. Because binge drinking often leads to a drunk driving incident, these two statistics alone can be enough reason to believe DUI in Florida may soon affect the senior citizen population at higher numbers than in the years prior.

Understanding the effects of alcohol on senior citizens, whether in Florida or any other “retirement state,” can help create awareness of a potential problem and promote safe drinking habits. From retirement communities to golf courses or even a day on the beach, no senior citizen should ever risk a DUI in Florida.


Everything in Moderation: Binge Drinking in Michigan

drinking and drivingOften considered a problem on college and university campuses, binge drinking is on the rise for all adults and has been leading to problems with drunk driving and other dangerous behaviors for years. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a study on binge drinking and its effects, as well as an analysis of who is binge drinking and where it occurs in the U.S. While many Midwestern states may have notoriety for heavy and/or binge drinking, the state of Michigan is actually more responsible when it comes to drinking than many of its neighbors. Still, at 17.7 percent, the rate of binge drinking in Michigan is still slightly above the reported national average of 17 percent.

Defined as consuming more than four drinks in a short time for women, or five drinks for men, binge drinking can quickly lead to problems maintaining employment, alcohol poisoning or even drinking and driving. Binge drinking impairs judgment in a different manner than moderate drinking, including the ability to determine the level of intoxication immediately after the “binge.” This means that a binge drinker’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can quickly rise even after he or she is behind the wheel and already driving home. In Michigan, a person who is convicted of drinking and driving can face jail time, mandatory ignition interlock installations and other consequences, and many of those convictions can be attributed to binge drinking, despite a “low” rate of binge drinkers in the state.

While anyone can feel safe enough to drive after drinking even one drink, it is always best to plan for a safe ride home when drinking. Binge drinking is a health and safety concern for everyone, and by consuming alcohol responsibly and in moderation, we are all guaranteed a much safer drive on Michigan’s streets.

Habitual Drinking and Driving: Is Alcohol the Problem?

drinking and drivingThere is no doubt that drinking and driving is a risky behavior, especially considering the devastation that occurs from any drunk driving accident. A person who drinks may be looking for a way to unwind after the end of a day or for an escape from the struggles of life. Drinking and driving results from a person’s overall bad judgment after consuming alcohol, and for a person with an alcohol addiction, the likelihood of several incidents of drinking and driving even before a first DUI arrest or conviction is extremely high.

Habitual drinking and driving is common among those with an alcohol addiction. When a person is unable to stop drinking, even after a DUI conviction, ignition interlock installation or alcohol treatment program, the need for alcohol overrides any issues of personal safety. Studies about drinking and driving show that a first-time DUI offender has evaded previous arrests an estimated 80 times. That adds up to 80 different incidents of drunk driving, indicating a problem with alcohol addiction plus an inflated confidence about the person’s own driving abilities after consuming alcohol. Because of these statistics, ignition interlock programs, increased sobriety monitoring, license revocation and more have become the most aggressive ways to keep habitual drunk drivers off the road.

As alcohol reduces feelings of inhibition, it also reduces a person’s ability to judge their own sobriety and can even cause a person to feel “above the law” in many cases of drunk driving. If a person has a problem with alcohol, devices like an ignition interlock can help eliminate the chances of subsequent drinking and driving incidents and teach behavior modification to an offender who has demonstrated an inability to remain sober behind the wheel. The difference between a safe ride home, and another DUI statistic can be attributed to the addiction and abuse of alcohol that continues to encourage risky behaviors and bad judgment.