Driving Under the Influence: A National Concern
Each December, we observe National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. This observance brings attention to the dangers of drinking and driving this holiday season. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are both beloved times of celebration, but for many, they end in tragedy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 Americans died from a drunk-driving crash in 2019. Learn the facts about driving under the influence.
How Substances Affect Your Ability to Drive
Alcohol and marijuana are central nervous system depressants. This means that they reduce your brain’s ability to reason, make snap decisions, and move in a coordinated fashion. As a person uses more drugs or consumes higher amounts of alcohol, these effects are intensified.
Below is some information from the NHTSA about how certain concentrations of alcohol – a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) – impact their ability to operate a vehicle.
0.02 – Increased relaxation and loss of judgement. Declined ability to visually track a target (like another car) and ability to multitask.
0.05 – Loss of fine motor control (like focusing one’s eyes), lowered inhibition and alertness. Reduced coordination results in difficulty steering and inability to respond to emergency situations while driving.
0.08 – Extremely poor coordination, balance, speech, hearing, and reaction time. Self-control, memory, and judgement severely impaired. Driver becomes unable to concentrate on the road and may even experience short-term memory loss. A person driving under the influence at this level loses the ability to process visual information, like traffic signals.
0.10 – Reaction time and control have significantly deteriorated. Slowed thinking and poor coordination reduce a person’s ability to remain in their own lane or brake appropriately.
0.15 – Vomiting may occur alongside major balance and muscle control problems. Individuals at this level cannot pay attention to the road or control their vehicle. Severe auditory and visual information processing errors arise.
Of course, those who have consumed stimulants are also driving under the influence. Cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine are examples of drugs that increase the activity of one’s nervous system. While this may seem like a good thing, these substances actually cause people to drive more aggressively, misjudge reality, and make riskier decisions. This is why driving under the influence of any substance is a dangerous choice.
Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Medication
Even doctor-prescribed substances can negatively affect your ability to pilot a vehicle. Think about warning labels and pharmaceutical commercials that warn patients not to operate heavy machinery after taking that medicine. While many people think of bulldozers and forklifts, those labels are actually talking about cars. This confusion has resulted in revised warnings and new public awareness campaigns from the NHTSA.
Washington State DUI Laws
DUI laws vary by state. In Washington, the penalty for driving under the influence is usually a gross misdemeanor. Washington’s DUI penalty statute, RCW 46.61.5055, outlines mandatory minimum sentencing parameters for this offense. Those who are arrested for driving under the influence face mandatory jail time, driver’s license suspension, and significant fines. Conviction may also involve electric home monitoring (house arrest), probation, and the installation of a mandatory ignition interlock device.
Penalties become more severe if someone has previously been charged with driving under the influence. While a first-time offender must spend a minimum of 24 hours in jail, for example, someone receiving their third charge will be incarcerated for a minimum of 90 consecutive days. Unfortunately, people dealing with a substance use disorder often experience multiple run-ins with the law while driving. For this reason, judges often send repeat offenders to court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment.
Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder
Driving under the influence is dangerous – not just for you, but for others on the road. At Lakeside-Milam, we offer life-changing addiction treatment services. We have been accredited by CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and the ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine). When you choose to attend treatment at an accredited facility, you can rest assured that the center is safe, comfortable, clean, and well-maintained. These seals of approval also indicate that staff members are appropriately trained in evidence-based, effective treatment methods backed by science.
Addiction is a disease that affects every aspect of your life: physically, mentally, socially, financially, and even legally. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, contact Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers. We offer legal support services through our deferred prosecution program. Our thorough assessment and comprehensive approach to treatment offers a clear roadmap to lifelong recovery.
To learn more, contact the Lakeside-Milam admissions team. We look forward to speaking with you.