Briefing Room: don’t operate a car while impaired (by booze, pot, etc.)

Hi Seal Beach,

As we enter into the long, Labor Day weekend, we want to take this opportunity to remind the community about the dangers of impaired driving.

Our friends at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (or NHTSA) have provided some very valuable information about drunk and drugged driving.

As we know, alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.

As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Then it passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. A person’s alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. At a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, crash risk increases exponentially. Because of this risk, it’s illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.  However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2021, there were 2,266 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 g/dL, and you can be arrested for DUI even if your BAC is below .08% if you are impaired.

Every day, about 37 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 39 minutes. In 2021, 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths — a 14% increase from 2020. These deaths were all preventable.

DUI doesn’t just mean alcohol.  Many substances can impair driving, including alcohol, some over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and illegal drugs.

Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can impair the ability to drive because they slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times.

Cocaine and methamphetamine can make drivers more aggressive and reckless.

Using two or more drugs at the same time, including alcohol, can amplify the impairing effects of each drug a person has consumed.

Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. Read and follow all warning labels before driving, and note that warnings against “operating heavy machinery” include driving a vehicle.

Impaired drivers can’t accurately assess their own impairment – which is why no one should drive after using any impairing substances. Remember: If you feel different, you drive different.

There are many misconceptions about marijuana use, including rumors that marijuana can’t impair you or that marijuana use can actually make you a safer driver.

Several scientific studies indicate that this is false. Research shows that marijuana impairs motor skills, lane tracking and cognitive functions. A 2015 study on driving after smoking cannabis stated that THC in marijuana also hurts a driver’s ability to multitask, a critical skill needed behind the wheel.

Driving impaired by any substance—alcohol or other drugs, whether legal or illegal—is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Law enforcement officers are trained to observe drivers’ behavior and to identify impaired drivers. Even in states where marijuana laws have changed, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of the drug.

So this Labor Day weekend, and every day of the year, please exercise responsible driving behavior.

We can all save lives by making smarter choices.

• Plan ahead for a sober driver, if you plan to use an impairing drug.

• Don’t let friends get behind the wheel if they’re under the influence of drugs.

• If you’re hosting a party where alcohol or other substances will be used, it’s your job to make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.

• Always wear your seat belt—it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.

For more information, please visit  The Seal Beach Police Department will be putting extra officers on the street this weekend, for the sole intention of looking for impaired drivers.  There is no excuse for drunk/drugged driving.   

Keep your questions coming Seal Beach!  Email us at today!