"Being able to sober up," is an ego-driven fallacy. You might feel lucid, but that doesn't mean you are. Just because you've managed to make it home safe so far doesn't mean you will continue to do so... and you're playing Russian Roulette every time you sit down behind the wheel while you're drunk. While your vision might be clear, your reaction time is shot, your attention span is shot, and no quantity of wishful thinking is going to make you suddenly sober.

Those of you who do this will continue to insist that you can sober yourselves up at will. I hope very sincerely that I am at least 50 miles away from your intended path of travel when you do. I don't want to be involved in an accident with you... or see the devastation after you hit someone else.

This writeup seems especially vehement because it was originally part of a node entitled, A wild shout out to the writers of those, "I was driving home drunk," stories, or something along those lines. The first few writeups were noders who declared quite boldly that they could sober up at will. Those writeups no longer exist, but this one remains, for whatever reason.
It was a little over a month ago that the email popped up in my inbox entitled URGENT!!! All caps, several exclamation points, I'm thinking that somebody's going to inform me that once again, they can't make rehearsal because they need to let the dog out, or some other lame reason. I opened the email quite casually, never expecting what I was about to read.

My close friend, Paul, had been killed by a drunk driver early that morning.

Note: It is not a good idea to send an email informing a friend of the death of someone close to them. This is generally viewed as severely insensitive.

I thought it was a sick joke. Firstly, I thought I knew the person sending me this information well enough to assume that they'd never send me an email like this. Secondly, I had just responded moments ago to another longish email from Paul, who had recently started making a concerted effort to get to know me closely. He had been writing me for weeks, telling me of his dreams, asking me to share mine, talking about his father's death a few years back and how that affected his life, discussing how God moves and uses people...

But it wasn't a joke. I made a few calls and verified the information. Paul had been hit while stopped at an intersection on his way to his job at the post office. The driver had been drinking and was going in excess of 90 mph.

I spent quite a while in my car in the parking lot outside my office building, weeping into a pile of napkins because the woman in the cubicle next to me couldn't find real Kleenex.

Paul was 29 years old. He was a stocky man, had no conception of his own strength, and gave excellent bear hugs and advice. He would rub my temples, scalp, and forehead when my head ached. He'd walk me to my car if it was dark outside. He wanted to be a pastor and was working two jobs to save enough money to launch into the ministry. Paul was humor, warmth, excitement, and child-like wonder personified.

And I miss him.

This is about the other side of the incident iambic described. A few years ago I showed up at my friend Jason's work to visit him for no real reason. For some reason I felt the need to tell him that I had just been dropped off by a bunch of my irresponsible, punk-ass friends who may have been high or drinking. I pretty much just mentioned this to sound cool, because Jason was older and I was a poser.

Jason just looked at me and told me a quick story.

Jason had a good friend a few years earlier who was, in all respects, totally average. He had no major emotional problems, got along fine with friends and family and never had a problem with alcohol, or any other drug.

Then one morning Jason gets a call from his friend's parents explaining that their son was in jail for killing a family of four while driving drunk back from a bar.

One nuclear family eliminated instantly.

Jason's friend will be in prison for the rest of his life. The strange thing is he swears he can't remember anything, even being in a bar that night.

Drunk Driving is something I experienced on a major scale. I went drunk driving with a 0.2 Blood Alcohol Level, got distracted by something on my right, by the time my drunken crossed eyes had focused back forward, I hit the concrete embankment of the Interstate traveling around 70MPH, flipped the car, went skidding across the Interstate on the roof of my car, and another car couldn't avoid my out of control car, and slammed into the (now upside down) driver side door.

Thankfully I didn't hurt the other person very badly, but I did mess myself up something awful.

Hows this for a morning after? You wake up, and realize there is a pin 1/4" thick drilled through your left shin bone, with 40 lbs. of traction weight on it, for your broken pelvis. Then you realize your left thumb (thats the hand you jerk off with!) is nearly severed, and the tip is hanging by only the webbing between your forefinger and your used-to-be thumb. The doctor tries to get your attention so he can explain and get your permission to remove the second toe of your right foot and tissue to reconstruct an appendage which will turn out at most to be 30% of what it was, and horribly scarred for the rest of your existence (I'm only twenty-two), but hey, at least you're not back to being without an opposable digit at all... Thats what separates us from the monkeys after all...

I didn't realize how drunk I was. I drank two shots of overproof rum, and had a few bloody marys along with some beer at dinner. (Later I realized it was 100 proof vodka, and I had more like 4 bloody marys.) This was all after a big meal. I didn't act drunk to my friends, they all thought I was just a little buzzed, and sunday traffic at 11pm wasn't so bad. In hindsight, the reason I left was dumb as hell. I wanted to get away from this guy (this old guy I'm nice to), because he wanted to have sex with me, and I kept telling him I wasn't going to do it. I had him ping my dsl modem from his house, and when it replied, I told him I was out, DSL is back up, I'm gone. Lets skip this scene.

I could've held off or told him flat out no, slept on his living room couch, (which folds out into a bed), woke up in the morning with a pounding hangover, and driven home safely. I wouldn't have spent 2 months in the hospital, and 3 months out of work, along with $400 grand in insurance coverage. Not to mention I wouldn't owe my ex-gf the six grand for the car I wrecked. (see, the psycho hose beast was uninsured... (snicker))

In the United States we tend to think of drunk driving as being the same thing as a DUI. A DUI is not AT ALL the same thing as drunk driving. A DUI is the criminal offense resulting from driving while particularly drunk. But currently the criterion for being charged with a DUI is that you are driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

There is no scientific evidence of a threshold BAC below which impairment does not occur.1. BACs of as low as 0.02% have been shown to cause difficulty with tasks that demand divided attention (such as driving). In 2000, approximately 16% of all deaths due to drunk driving were caused by people with BACs of less than 0.08%2. That is to say, 1 out of 8 people killed by drunk drivers were killed by people who the police would not charge with drunk driving, people who had had only 2-3 drinks and who did not feel drunk, and people who legally were not drunk.

Deaths, of course, are only the most dramatic consequence of drunk driving. These same legally sober drivers caused 43,730 accidents (again, in 2000), causing an estimated 14 billion dollars worth of damage.

You cannot judge how impaired you are after drinking. It will depend on your base mental state, the number of drinks you have had, the type of drink you had, the time since you had them, the amount of food in your stomach before drinking, and other factors that you are totally unqualified to juggle even when sober. You cannot judge how impaired you are after drinking, but you can take a cab.

Don't drink and drive.

At all.


1. Ogden, E. J. D. and Moskowitz, H. (2004). Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Driver Performance. Journal of Crash Prevention and Injury Control, 5(3), 185-198.

2. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/alcohol/impaired_driving_pg2/US.htm
If you can find more recent data, please let me know.

And the secondary source and inspiration for this writeup, freakonomics.blogs.

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