Driving Under the Influence Can Result in Serious Consequences

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • Hurlburt Field ADAPT Program
Drinking and driving is always a poor decision that can generate severe consequences.

In the state of Florida, the legal blood alcohol limit for a person operating a motor vehicle is 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If arrested and convicted of DUI, an individual faces penalties such as a night in jail, fines, loss of state driver’s license, loss of base driving privilege, increased insurance rates, legal fees, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) action if military, as well as the shame and embarrassment that comes with a DUI arrest.

Killing or injuring someone else while driving under the influence carries even harsher penalties including a felony conviction, stiffer fines and a jail sentence.

Consider the following factors:

• It takes much less alcohol to be legally intoxicated than most people realize. The rate at which a person reaches the legal blood alcohol limit is affected by many factors, to include the amount of alcohol in a particular drink, what the alcohol is mixed with, the rate at which drinks are consumed, gender, body weight, what a person eats or drinks before and/or during alcohol consumption, and an individual’s liver functions.

• Most people have heard of the “one drink per hour” rule as a guide to responsible drinking. However, this rule has some inherent problems because it generalizes that people respond to alcohol in the same manner. They don’t.

• The human liver can metabolize about one-half ounce of pure alcohol each hour. A five-ounce glass of wine, 12 ounces of regular beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, or one and a half ounces of 80-proof liquor each contain about one-half ounce of pure alcohol. However, some mixed drinks are made of mostly alcohol and contain more than the average one-half ounce of pure alcohol.

• Also, take into account what the alcohol is mixed with. Drinking alcohol mixed with plain water slows the absorption rate by decreasing the concentration of alcohol. Conversely, drinking alcohol with carbonated liquids speeds-up the absorption rate because the carbon dioxide moves the alcohol more rapidly through the stomach to the small intestine where the alcohol is absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream.

• Alcohol affects behavior. Alcoholic beverages contain ethyl alcohol which is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol impairs many functions of the brain, to include judgment, inhibition, vision, motor skills, concentration and reaction time.

The first two brain functions, judgment and inhibition, affect the decision-making ability. Impaired by alcohol, people will say and do things they wouldn’t do while sober. Also, people’s concept of time may be altered, which can influence the amount they think they have consumed and over what time period.

When alcohol lowers other brain functions such as vision, motor skills, concentration and reaction time, it further degrades the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Some people may think that one second isn’t much. But, factor that one second into the equation when a car is traveling 45 mph or more, and someone pulls-out in front of that car.

Tolerance to alcohol can play an important role as well. People who have developed a tolerance to alcohol require larger amounts before they feel its effects. This can lead them into a false sense of security because they don’t feel intoxicated when, in reality, they are.

Equally important, even though high-tolerance drinkers feel the effects of alcohol less than low-tolerance drinkers, their reaction time will still be degraded.

Bottom line, it’s known that even small amounts of alcohol affect driving ability. It is a mistake to assume that a driver with a BAC of less than 0.08 percent is not intoxicated, not impaired and not under the influence.

So, if you drink, don’t drive. And, if you drive, don’t drink. After all, is one drink really worth all the potential serious consequences?

For more information, contact the Hurlburt Field Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program at (850) 881-4237. The ADAPT Program provides a wide range of prevention, evaluation and treatment services to active duty members. The ADAPT Program is located directly behind the Hurlburt Youth Center at 130 LeTourneau Circle, building 90311.

Family members of active duty personnel should contact TriCare-partner Value Options at (800) 700-8646 for information and assistance in obtaining substance use evaluation and treatment services.