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Why do people keep choosing to drive after drinking?

There's no doubt about it: Drinking and driving is a terrible idea. Despite all of the ad campaigns, public service announcements, roadside checkpoints and the stiff penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI), people still make the same mistakes they've made for decades.

So, why does it keep happening? The answers may surprise you.

Data compiled by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) gives us some insight through research performed in 2017. Nearly half (48.6 percent) of the people who got caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of .08 percent actually believed that they were sober enough to drive. They simply didn't feel "too impaired" to be behind the wheel. That's very telling because it shows that many people lack the capacity to accurately judge when they're tipsy or even outright drunk.

What about the people who knew that they were too drunk to be driving? Why did they still get behind the wheel and knowingly put themselves and others in danger? They did it because:

  • They didn't really have very far to go
  • They thought they'd be fine if they drove carefully
  • Some didn't think about it all
  • They simply gambled that they wouldn't get caught
  • They couldn't find an alternative ride home
  • They left before they anticipated (and didn't have time to sober up)
  • There wasn't a lot of traffic, so they decided to risk it
  • They figured they were familiar enough with the road, so they'd be safe

Finally, a tiny minority really had no explanation for their actions -- and an even smaller minority claimed it was because "everybody else" was doing it.

Frankly, none of these are good reasons to drive while impaired. A drunk driving accident can ruin your life and others' lives -- and a DWI charge and conviction (even if you don't have an accident) can haunt you forever. These days, conveniences like taxis, Uber and Lyft make it easier than ever to get a ride home. Don't make excuses, and don't take chances.

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