Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences
Protecting Your Driving Privilege from DUI and DWI

Leading A Zero Tolerance Life: DUI and Your Driving Privilege

Updated Dec. 25, 2020

Nobody can claim to be unaware of the dangers associated with drinking alcohol and using other drugs. Having read through every module in this section, you understand the dangers more than most! The question now is, do you follow in the footsteps of so many others before you and choose to ignore those dangers? Or, do you commit to living your life with a zero-tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol?

Depending on your age and your state of residence, drinking alcohol and using certain recreational drugs may not be illegal. However, these habits will always be harmful to your health and emotional well-being. Plus, though drinking alcohol is not the same as drinking and driving, the former often leads to the latter. As you have seen, alcohol intoxication results in poor judgment and risk-taking behavior. You may believe that you would never drink and drive now, but your entire outlook on life may be different when you consume alcohol. It is impossible to know what you are capable of when you’re drunk.

Drunk driving devastates lives. Often, this means the lives of other people as well as the alcohol-impaired driver themselves. If you choose to ignore the risks (and the law) and get behind the wheel while intoxicated, you could kill yourself, a loved one, a friend or a stranger. You may end up incarcerated, banned from driving, financially crippled, seriously injured or shunned by your friends, family and community. These are not unlikely outcomes but very real, prominent risks.

Protecting yourself from these negative outcomes may not always be easy but it is at least straightforward. The simplest, healthiest and most effective way to avoid drunk driving is not to drink alcohol at all!

What if you do drink alcohol?

Even if you are fully committed to avoiding alcohol altogether, you must consider the possibility that you will change your mind in the future. If you do drink, you must know how to avoid making a dangerous decision, like choosing to drive while intoxicated. Remember that alcohol will impair your judgment and prevent you from realizing how intoxicated you are.

If you drink alcohol at a party or at home, you may later be tempted to drive home, or to a restaurant, or simply to take your friends out for a ride in the car. None of these activities justify drunk driving. Even if you’re desperate to get home before your curfew and do not want to get in trouble with your parents, you must not drive. Alcohol skews your perceptions and ability to weigh things up, if you have consumed alcohol and are tempted to drive, ask yourself which of these outcomes is worse:

  1. Making your parents mad, or devastating them by getting yourself killed in a drunk driving collision?
  2. Letting down a friend, or killing a stranger?
  3. Missing out on a party, or missing out on ten years of your life by being imprisoned for vehicular manslaughter?

The fact is that no matter how badly you think you need to drive, there will be other perfectly acceptable alternatives available to you. Even if your other options aren’t great, ANYTHING is better than driving while drunk.

Get a ride instead

Drinking alcohol does not have to stop you from getting home, getting to see your friends or going anywhere else you want (providing you are in a fit state to do so). You may not be able to drive yourself, but you can get a ride with somebody else. A great way to ensure you always have a ride home is to take turns being the designated driver with your friends. Even if you have not planned ahead and nobody with you is sober enough to drive, there are plenty of other ways you can get home. For instance:

  1. 1

    Catch a bus or call a cab.
    Most communities have public transport and taxi services that run late into the night. It will cost money, but your life is worth more than a cab fare home – even if you live on the other side of the state.

  2. 2

    Call a friend or family member.
    Any person who cares for you would prefer you to call and ask for a ride than to drive yourself home while drunk.

If you took your car out with you, getting a ride home will mean leaving your car where it is and picking it up the following day, so it is often best to avoid taking it with you in the first place. However, coming back to collect your car the next day is no big deal and plenty of people do it. A vehicle parked in a safe place overnight is far less likely to be damaged than a car being driven by a drunk person.

Choose not to go anywhere

If you cannot get a ride home when you’ve been drinking, the alternative is to stay where you are. You may not be as comfortable sleeping on a sofa or the floor as you would be in your own bed, but at least you will make it through the night in one piece. When you have been drinking at home and are tempted to go out for a drive – don’t. Missing out on a social event or going to your favorite restaurant won’t kill you but driving while impaired by alcohol just might.

Being a responsible designated driver

Being the designated driver on a night out with your friends is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. The people you are with will not be able to exercise good judgment or look after themselves while impaired by alcohol, which means that you will have to do these things for them. As the designated driver, you must:

  1. 1

    Avoid alcohol.
    Avoid drinking ANY alcohol (even a sip).

  2. 2

    Get to know your team.
    Make sure you know who you are responsible for before people start drinking.

  3. 3

    Grab contact information.
    Make sure you have addresses and emergency contacts for all your passengers, just in case somebody becomes so intoxicated that they pass out or cannot remember where they live.

  4. 4

    Prevent distraction.
    Tell your passengers that dangerous behavior in your car will not be tolerated.

  5. 5

    Know your limits.
    Make sure you do not promise to transport more people than you can safely fit in your car.

  6. 6

    Secure the keys.
    Keep your keys away from your passengers and make sure that nobody else has access to a vehicle.

  7. 7

    Rule out midunderstanding.
    Come to an agreement about gas money, food and the time you want to be leaving at the end of the night, before anybody starts drinking.

Taking these steps will give you the best chance of having a conflict-free designated driver experience. Though, be prepared that your evening may not run smoothly. You must fulfill your responsibility to return everybody home safely, even if your friends start arguing or somebody is sick in your car.

When you go to restaurants, bars or clubs as a designated driver, remember to let your servers know that you will be driving. Servers and bartenders usually take care to avoid offering designated drivers any alcoholic beverages. If you’re lucky, you may even get complimentary soft drinks!

Watch out for alcohol poisoning

Another important role of the designated driver is to watch out for signs of alcohol poisoning in others. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call 911.

  • Vomiting
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Low body temperature

If your friend is unconscious or semi-conscious, roll them onto their side and stay with them until help arrives.

You may become concerned during the evening if you notice one of your friends appears very drunk or has consumed a lot of alcohol. In these situations, you can advise your friend (in a non-judgmental way) to stop drinking. People often respond better to this if they know the intervention may be coming, so make a pact at the start of the night that you will call your friends out if you believe they have had too much to drink. That way, they are less likely to become angry or resistant when you advise them to stop.

Spotting an impaired driver

When you are out for the evening and are getting a ride with somebody else, it is important that you know how to spot the signs of alcohol impairment. Never get in a car with somebody who is alcohol-impaired or may be over the legal limit, even if they insist that they are fine to drive. If you are already in a car with a driver who has had one or two alcoholic drinks, monitor them for the following signs of mild to moderate alcohol impairment:

  • Not sitting up properly in the driver’s seat.
  • Gripping the steering wheel too tightly.
  • Rolling the windows down when the temperature in the car is mild.
  • Leaning his or her head out the window.
  • Leaning forward to peer through the windshield.
  • Playing music loudly.
  • Not turning their head to check mirrors and blind spots.

Any of these signs could indicate that your driver is suffering from alcohol impairment. They may or may not have noticed the problem themselves, so broach the subject cautiously. While remaining calm, gently try to convince the driver to pull over so that you can drive, or call a cab. Do not become angry, frustrated or aggressive, as this could lead to an even more dangerous driving situation.

Dealing with social pressures

Most people experience pressure to drink or take drugs in social situations, at some point during their life. The pressure to drink alcohol can be extremely overwhelming, as it is accepted as a normal part of our culture – everybody does it! Moreover, alcohol is depicted in TV shows, adverts, billboards, movies and other forms of media as a positive thing. Day in and day out, we are manipulated by the media into thinking that drinking alcohol is fun, glamorous and will in some way enhance our lives. This portrayal of alcohol can be compelling but remember, you are never given the complete picture.

Movies, TV shows and advertisements portray drinking alcohol as a necessary part of an enjoyable lifestyle. They show well-dressed, attractive, fun-loving people drinking at parties and family events. They do not show the vomiting, stumbling, emotional outbursts, liver disease and long-term health consequences that we know accompany alcohol consumption. If you choose the “zero tolerance” approach and hope to avoid drinking alcohol altogether, you will need to remind yourself of these negative outcomes whenever you start feeling tempted to drink. Focus on the fact that you do not really WANT to drink, you are simply being influenced by the world around you.

Society’s general attitude towards alcohol may be echoed by your immediate family and friends. If your family always drink at special occasions, you may be more inclined to think of drinking as “normal”. Abstaining from drinking may even seem like an abnormal thing to do. Always remind yourself that you are in control of your own life and only you get to decide what is normal for you.

Enjoy your sobriety

If you go about it with the right attitude, choosing not to drink is an empowering and liberating experience. All it takes is the realization that abstaining from drinking does not mean you are “missing out” – quite the opposite in fact!

It is always harder to avoid something if you feel you are depriving yourself. People around you may go out of their way to convince you that’s exactly what you’re doing, by calling you boring, unadventurous or telling you stories about drinking that paint it as some amazing activity. Of course, these people are tactically leaving out the hangovers, sickness, shame, embarrassment, conflict and danger from their drinking stories. You are not missing out; you are doing yourself an enormous favor by avoiding the negative effects of alcohol intoxication. In truth, the positive effects of drinking are a myth!

You do not need alcohol to have fun, forget your troubles, be confident and make connections with other people. Drinking alcohol actually inhibits these things. While you are sober:

  1. 1

    Your body will obey you.
    No drunken stumbling around the dance floor!

  2. 2

    You will be able to think clearly.
    You will appear smarter and far more quick-witted than your intoxicated friends.

  3. 3

    You will be more attractive to other people.
    Nobody finds drooling, vomiting, smelling of alcohol and slurring attractive.

  4. 4

    You will be in control.
    That means not having to worry about embarrassing yourself, saying something you regret, being coerced into something you do not want to do or getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Think about it, why would you want to trade any of these things in for shame, sickness and regret? Furthermore, while the people around you are suffering from hangovers, embarrassment and poor productivity for days after a night out, you will be able to get up feeling totally normal. Sobriety is not something to be feared, it is something to be treasured.

Protect your driving privileges

Living a zero-tolerance life is something to be proud of. Not only are you protecting your physical health, mental health and dignity – you are protecting your driving privileges! Getting your driver’s license is an enormous step towards independence, adulthood and achieving your life goals. If you are under 21, you can lose your driver’s license on the spot if a police officer even suspects you of drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Remember that even mature adults who choose to drink within the confines of the law take a big risk in doing so. Alcohol and drugs lead to lasting impairments that will affect your driving ability and warp your perception of reality. People who are intoxicated simply cannot understand risk and consequences as well as people who are sober. They do things they never believed themselves capable of, including drinking and driving. Think about the person you want to be in life and ask yourself: does alcohol fit into this picture? If you are really honest with yourself, the answer will be “no”.

You may choose to drink alcohol as an adult and that is your right. Though, remember that adult privileges come with adult responsibilities. If you have had an alcoholic drink, you have a responsibility as an adult, a driver and a conscientious American citizen to stay off the road.

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