I typically stay away from public service-style posts, but this is wellness-related. I recently had a friend killed in an alcohol-related incident. Prior to this, anytime I heard about accidents of this nature in the news, it tended to go in one ear and out the other. As terrible as it sounds, we tend to block these tragedies out unless it hits close to home. Unfortunately, this is often too late.
Drunken driving is a real concern, especially in light of the alcohol-driven culture we have adopted in the upper Midwest. The prevalence of alcohol-related deaths in Wisconsin alone is alarming. However, I believe it is even more alarming that many of us have grown so accustomed to hearing about these incidents in the news that the shock factor has worn down.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crashes in 2009 killed 238 people in the state and injured nearly 4,000. Approximately 45% of all fatal traffic crashes in Wisconsin that year were alcohol-related. More than 26% of Wisconsin adults surveyed in a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services admitted that they had driven under the influence of alcohol in the previous year.
Alcohol impairs your ability to make decisions and tends to give you a false sense of immortality. People who drink a few alcoholic beverages and feel “buzzed” are typically over the legal limit of 0.08% and should not drive. It’s possible to get away with driving under the influence nine out of 10 times, but all it takes is one incident to change your life and the lives of others forever. It is never a good idea to push your luck.
Driving under the influence is preventable. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid drinking and driving:
- Choose a sober designated driver before you start drinking
- Take mass transit, a taxicab, or ask a sober friend to drive you home
- Don’t let friends drive drunk
- Some taverns and restaurants have programs to provide patrons with a safe ride home. Visit www.tlw.org
- Report potential impaired drivers to law enforcement or call 911
If you or someone you know has an alcohol or drug-related problem, there is help out there.
Step 1: Talk
- Talk about your worries when the person is sober. Try to say what you think or feel, like “I am concerned about your drinking.”
- Give facts. Some people find it helpful just to get information. You could say “I want to share some things I’ve learned about adults and alcohol.”
- Stay away from labels like “alcoholic.”
- Ask if you can go to the doctor with your friend or family member.
Step 2: Offer your help
- Suggest things to do that don’t include drinking.
- Encourage counseling or attending a group meeting. Offer to drive to and from these support meetings.
- Give your support during treatment.
Step 3: Take care of yourself
- Think about what you need to stay safe and healthy. You need support too!
Here is a great online resource: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets