The sobering facts about DUI
From alcohol and cannabis to digital distractions
Thankfully, most drivers know there are grave risks that come with driving under the influence. But while many of us think of DUI in terms of alcohol, other “influences” pose a danger too. From drinking and driving to cannabis and phones, here’s what every driver should know about impaired driving.
The true effects of alcohol
As the Latin saying goes, “in vino veritas”: in wine lies the truth. But rather than revealing our true selves, experts agree the effect we feel when our inhibitions are removed is better described as alcohol myopia: alcohol “narrows your focus of attention and thoughts to the most obvious information or cues in your immediate environment.”
So instead of bringing out the “real you” alcohol actually limits your attention span and causes bad judgment. Because alcohol affects self-awareness, this “other you” doesn’t realize it’s under the influence. Just like you wouldn’t let a dangerous driver take you anywhere, don’t let this “other you” anywhere near the wheel.
Cannabis: Being aware and being wary
The effects of cannabis may differ from those of alcohol, but they still result in impairment. Because of reduced motor skills, slowed reaction time, and diminished concentration, drivers are deprived of their reflexes and ability to make life-saving decisions. These grim statistics reflect this: cannabis, the most commonly found drug, was present in almost half of the drug-positive fatal crashes in 2014.
Not surprisingly, drug impaired driving is illegal everywhere in Canada, with more than 14,000 officers trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. And since THC is detectable in your blood stream long after consumption, you could be exposed to licence suspension, fines, criminal charges or even jail time, whether you were driving impaired or not. The recent legalization of cannabis has many repercussions, including insurance coverage: you can find the facts here.
Because the psychoactive effects of cannabis vary wildly from person to person – depending on the method of consumption, quantity consumed, and THC levels – there is no guidance for drivers about how much cannabis can be consumed before it’s unsafe to drive or how long a driver should wait to drive after consuming cannabis. The official advice: Don’t take a chance. Don’t drive high.
The third player in this deadly trio is distracted driving. Texting at the wheel is the second highest cause of mortality on the road. Most of us know it’s wrong, even deadly. Yet many do it anyway.
Why? According to research, the hit of dopamine we receive when we hear the ping of an incoming text not only creates an addiction, but it blocks access to our pre-frontal cortex.
When we give in to the urge to look at our phones, our eyes leave the road for 4 to 6 seconds. At 90 km/h, that means driving the length of a football field while looking at a phone!
Other distractions are deadly as well, from choosing a playlist to eating and drinking, or even applying makeup. A great investment for your safety is to start applying these tips to help your brain learn to control itself and create safe driving habits.
From a simple definition of drunk driving, impaired driving has evolved into a complex minefield of deadly traps. Even when perfectly sober, driving a vehicle that weighs over a tonne requires great skill and comes with great responsibility. So, if there’s one important lesson to remember, it’s that steering clear of impaired driving is an obvious choice.