In many drunk driving accidents, the driver who gets behind the wheel while intoxicated thought it would be safe to drive. They considered it at the bar or restaurant, determined that they felt good enough to drive, and then started home.
After the fact, it sounds like a terrible decision. If the driver causes an accident and then has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16%, people will ask how they possibly could have thought that was safe. The driver may wonder the same thing themselves; there’s a reason people often regret the choices they make while drinking.
The issue is that the alcohol impairment itself makes it harder — or impossible — for people to properly gauge when they are too drunk to drive. In short, they have no idea how intoxicated they are at the moment.
That’s not just a logical deduction; researchers studied it by carrying out breath tests and asking those who had been drinking to rate their own level of intoxication. They could then compare the results to find out if those people got anywhere close to the truth.
What they found, over and over again, was that they did not. Their guesses were consistently wrong. Those who thought they could drive were often well over the legal limit.
It hit a critical point at 0.16%, which is twice the legal limit of 0.08%. That’s the point where all reason left them and they “could longer tell how drunk they were.”
A dangerous combination
By no means is this the only type of impaired thinking that happens when people drink heavily. They may feel open to taking far more risks, for instance, choosing to drive even when they know they are over the 0.08% limit. They may think that a “short” drive is relatively safe. They may not realize that they have other options.
They could also buy into some of the common myths, like believing that a cup of coffee can sober them up. They could then drink the coffee, honestly think that it helped, and start driving even though their BAC is almost exactly what it was before the coffee. In hindsight, they’ll understand that the decision made little sense, but it’s easier for them to accept it at the time.
By no means does this excuse drunk driving; if you get hit by a drunk driver and suffer serious injuries, you need to know what legal rights you have in Colorado to financial compensation.
However, it does help you understand a bit more about why and how these accidents happen. That knowledge may help you drive safely, even when you know you cannot trust all other drivers to do the same.