Drunk Driving

By: Mansi Arora


Image Credit: Flickr @ National Library of Medicine

What is drunk driving? Drunk driving refers to driving with excessive levels of alcohol in the blood which is beyond the limit set by the law. Most drivers that drink and drive end up with fatal accidents, which can cause severe injuries or death.


Alcohol has a massive impact on the human brain. It blocks signals from the brain cells, causing the mind to react slower than it is supposed to. Some of the symptoms include poor memory, impulsive behavior, slurred speeches, bad breath, and slowed reflexes. If the driver is a heavy drinker, the brain automatically stops receiving signals, even when he or she is not currently drinking. Despite the absence of alcohol in the systems, the mind continues to function as if there is alcohol in the system; the mind carries on activating the neurotransmitters, which causes severe withdrawal symptoms that can ultimately damage most of the human brain cells.


Alcohol can cause neurotoxicity, which occurs when neurons fail to function after too much exposure to neurotransmitters. Neurons make up pathways in the brain. If the neurons are exhausted and lose their energy, the path in the mind can be damaged, thereby disrupting the flow of the signals and damaging the brain. Many of the individuals that consume alcohol go through ‘brain shrinkage.’ Brain shrinkage causes both gray matter (cell bodies) and white matter (cell pathways) to decrease. The loss of brain matter increases with both age and the amount of alcohol that is being consumed. A driver who is under the influence of alcohol will find it hard to drive due to the ineffective function of brain signals.


Canada, the country I reside in, is ranked the second-worst country whereby 34% of accidents are caused by drunk driving. In Canada, approximately five people die from drunk driving and about 170 - 180 individuals are injured daily. Annually, about 1,250 to 1,500 people are killed due to drunk driving, and 63,000 wounded throughout Canada. The percentage of accidents due to drunk driving in South Africa and the U.S. is 58% and 31% respectively.


To reduce the number of accidents caused by drunk driving, some countries are using laser technology to catch drunk drivers. Lasers can detect the level of alcohol vapors in the car using the curved mirror. In addition, the lasers are able to identify the vehicle and assist in identifying the level of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream. In the US, the driver is only allowed to have 0.08% of alcohol in their blood. Most of the time, police officers have a roadside checkpoint whereby drivers are required to roll down their windows for the police officers to check the driver’s breath.


The MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) organization in North America was established to discourage individuals from drunk driving. The organization tries to assist and support drivers who are affected and prevent underage drinking.


To decrease the number of drunk drivers, it is necessary to educate teenagers and youth about the consequences of drunk driving. Posters to discourage drunk driving can be placed in schools and community centers. More stops and checkpoints should be implemented near clubs, bars, or busy streets, especially during late hours. If an individual is going to a party and wants to consume alcohol, the individual should make arrangements to return home by designating a driver or arranging for a taxi. Acts such as these will reduce the number of accidents and will ultimately save the individual’s life and the lives of others.


Q: How does the police know if a driver is under the influence of alcohol?

A: Police officers go to crowded areas, bars, or clubs to catch drunk drivers. They also look for cars that are driving in a reckless manner. These cars are pulled over and interrogated by the police for their strange behavior. Most of the drivers pulled over are committing the crime of drunk driving.


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