There is something about drinking too much alcohol that makes people want to grab their car keys and mash down hard on the accelerator. I think substance abuse specialists would say the more drunk the driver, the more likely he is to speed. It’s not the same with every mood-altering substance, but it is with booze.
Once a client asked me why the police weren’t arresting people for driving under the influence of marijuana. I had no clue, so we looked it up. Turns out people who smoke weed are just not interested in driving. They would rather sprawl on the sofa, listen to their favorite band and eat Cheetos. If they do have to drive it’s not likely to be fast. So it’s not the pot smokers you need to worry about on the highway, it’s the drunks.
I’m not advocating that anyone celebrate with an illegal substance this Fourth of July weekend. But I do want to warn you there will be a ton of drunk drivers out there, so be careful. Many of us are headed to the mountains or the beach, with family and friends. It’s the best weekend of the year to tack on a few days and make a vacation of it. We want you to enjoy yourselves and make it back in one piece, so here are a few tips to keep in mind while you travel.
First, watch who you and your family members get in the car with. This one seems so obvious you wonder why it’s first on the list. But as someone who made some pretty poor choices as a young woman when it came to getting in cars, I know questioning a driver’s competence can be challenging. Especially if it’s your parent or a person you’re dating. It seems young people today are more knowledgeable about the risks of impaired driving, but still, most people who are killed by drivers under the influence are killed as passengers, not as drivers of other vehicles. That includes 61% of the children killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in recent years.
Second, don’t assume that impaired drivers are out there only at night. While drug and alcohol crashes happen more often at night, there are still impaired people on the roads during the day. They often stay up all night drinking or partying and then drive after the sun comes up, so they are out there for the morning commute. That makes it especially dangerous because other drivers do not expect someone to be impaired in the morning like they do at night.
Third, if someone is driving erratically, steer clear of them and call 911. Look at the car or truck carefully so you can identify it later if necessary. Get the license tag. When you call 911, you will be asked first about your location, so be sure to note everything you can about where you are. You don’t know if the police or highway patrol will have the resources to track the person down, but they may, and what you note may become evidence later.
Fourth, manage your own drinking. Our firm just won a jury verdict against a young woman who took jello shots and drank beer at a Fourth of July party into the early hours of the morning, slept a few hours and then got up at 6 AM feeling that she was “fine.” In fact she was not fine and after getting lost on a rural road she had traveled for years, she killed our client’s 41-year old wife while she was out walking for exercise. So just remember you cannot “sleep it off” in a short period of time. You may think you are sober enough to drive, but depending on how much you drank you may not be at all.
So stay safe and enjoy our Independence Day. We are not recommending that anyone get lightheaded in their own home, but this seems to be a good time to point out that there is no law against it.