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Why Do People Drink and Drive? The Answers Are Pretty Jarring…

Some consequences of drinking too much are more harmless than others – bumping a leg and bruising it, kissing a friend and complicating things, drunk texting someone a facepalm-worthy message.

Then there are “the big ones.” These are the choices we make while intoxicated that do more than just “sting a little” – the ones that can’t be cleaned up with a little manipulation, concealing clothing, or fibbing.

I was recently sent the following statistics from a car insurance company that conducted a survey on the reasons people drink and drive. The stats that specifically felt jarring to me were:

  • More than 1 in 10 millennials believe they could drink more than the legal limit and still drive
  • 40% let friends drive drunk because they’ve done it before
  • 20% of men and 7% of women would let a friend drive drunk to avoid an argument.
  • Booty calls: 1 in 4 drunk drivers are headed to a “hook-up” location

And here’s how the age groups of survey participants broke down:

  • 31% were 18 -19 years old
  • 15% were 20 – 36 years old
  • 62% were 37 – 52 years old

My purpose in sharing these statistics is not to circulate a public service announcement criticizing anyone out there that believes those are legitimate reasons to put their own life and the lives of innocent people at risk. The point I want to make is this: alcoholism is a disease that affects our decision-making abilities, and while some people may do “crazier” things than others, you know deep down when you’ve made a decision you would never have made sober – and you do that thing anyway.

The Choice to Drink and Drive

As a city girl, I never had to consider getting behind the wheel drunk, because I never drove when I went out. I got into cabs, took subways, or got a lift. Was I always going somewhere safe? Not necessarily. You never know with strangers. You might even argue that jetting around in a New York City taxi is always a risk, “ha-ha-ha.”

I can’t even imagine being an alcoholic – or even a social binge drinker – and living in a town, state, or city where I had to drive. I really can’t. The worst damage I did commuting from one bar to the next was tripping on a sidewalk, chipping my front tooth, and laughing about it at the time.

But if I had kept drinking, and, one day, ended up needing to drive, would I have done it?

I’d like to think that, since I was always a “smart girl” – one of those social “high-bottom,” drinkers – I would have known better if the time to drink and drive eventually came. I’d love to think that, while drunk, I would’ve left my car where it was, took a cab or train home, then made the trip back the next day to get the car. Or maybe, in this hypothetical situation, I would ask some stranger or whoever I was with to drive me wherever I was going instead.

What did actually happen, more than once, was a night of drinking eight martinis even though I knew I may end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, and then ending up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. A car is capable of hurting or killing not just its occupants, but other innocent bystanders or drivers on the road. When I made myself deathly ill, I only scared or saddened the people who loved me, which often left some emotional scars.

Make Changes Before Something Terrible Happens

I was lucky, because certain situations could have ended much, much worse for me. When I went into the 12-step meeting rooms, I was by far the youngest one in most of them, and there was a lot I couldn’t relate to – being arrested, totaling my car, losing custody of my children, stealing from people.

Fortunately, I was wise enough to listen when someone told me to focus on what I could relate to, and to make sure that I slapped a big fat “yet” at the end of each “I never did this” that came up.

Don’t wait for your “yet” to come. If you’ve been drinking and driving and haven’t hurt anyone else or yourself, it’s time to stop anyway. If you’ve let a friend do the same, don’t let it happen again. It’s not worth the fight.

And if you can’t stop, consider whether you should be drinking at all – if the answer is no, there are plenty of roads to recovery that you can take.




Images Courtesy of iStock

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