Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is incredibly dangerous. December is National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month, an opportune time to review what the ramifications are when you drive under the influence. In particular, as a doctor, lawyer, pilot, or other specialist, you need to be aware of the impact of a DUI among professionals.
December is Focused on Prevention
In 1981 December was declared National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month. More recently, it has been referred to as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. December was chosen for this designation as the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is “one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in impaired driving,” according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
In 2020, the annual declaration issued by the White House emphasizes that “During National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we remember the lives lost as a result of those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, we acknowledge the pain and suffering caused by impaired driving, we honor the brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect our communities from this irresponsible behavior, and we resolve to never get behind the wheel unless we are sober.”
A Dangerous Crime
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that tough enforcement of drunk-driving laws has been a major factor in reducing drunk-driving deaths since the 1980s. The agency refers to driving while impaired as a dangerous crime. Anyone convicted of a DUI, which may range from being a misdemeanor to a felony offense, depending on the circumstance, can face revocation of their driver’s license, fines, and even jail time.
Worse than getting arrested or paying hefty fines is causing serious injury or death. According to the NHTSA, approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers with blood alcohol concentration (BACs) of .08 g/dL or higher. In 2018, there were 10,511 people killed in these preventable crashes. In fact, on average over the 10-year period from 2009-2018, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.
In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 50 minutes in the United States in 2018. Men are more likely than women to be driving drunk in fatal crashes.
How Alcohol Affects Driving Abilities
Alcohol and drugs reduce the functions of the brain, resulting in impaired thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, all of which are essential to safely operating a motor vehicle. With increased alcohol levels, the negative effects on the central nervous system also 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.
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 fact, in 2018, there were 1,878 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had lower alcohol levels (BACs of .01 to .07 g/dL).
DUI Among Professionals
As a professional, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, pilot, or in another specialty field, a DUI can not only affect your personal life but can also significantly impact your career. Typically, a DUI must be reported to your licensing agency. Beyond the implications for health and safety, a DUI could affect the status of your license and it could cost you your job and your career.
To be able to keep your license, you may have to take steps to convince your licensing board that this was an isolated incident and not part of a questionable pattern of behavior. You will probably also have to convince your board that you do not have an alcohol or substance abuse problem that will affect your ability to continue practicing.
You may need to seek treatment for your alcohol and drug use. A professional detox can help you on your road to recovery so you can reintegrate into your workplace successfully. A DUI among professionals does not necessarily mean the end of a career as doctor, lawyer, or pilot, but it should be a wake-up call. Take the time during National Drunk & Drugged Driving Month to ensure that you stay sober and safe.
Detox Programs for Professionals at Providence Treatment
Don’t let drugs or alcohol take over your life. Contact Providence Treatment to get started on your detox in the Philadelphia area. We understand that a DUI among professionals can impact careers as well as personal lives and we are here to help. At Providence Treatment, we help professionals like you overcome your addiction and help you reintegrate into your workplace successfully. If you need help getting clean, then contact us at 484.469.9592, and you can begin your recovery as soon as possible.