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According to a study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol can be attributed to about 88,000 deaths per year in the U.S. This includes accidents from driving under the influence, alcohol poisoning, liver disease and fetal alcohol syndrome. This news highlights the ongoing health issue we have here in the U.S. from excessive drinking in a culture that seems to endlessly promote its use. From stylish ads in magazines to the endless banter on local radio stations selling listeners on going out to bars and parties to celebrate the coming of the weekend, it’s all around us. Every year at this time state police are especially primed and on the lookout for intoxicated drivers coming from St. Patrick’s Day festivities and an increased number of checkpoints were set up all across the country. Preliminary reports show that this last weekend 120 people were arrested for DUI in Maryland, more than 200 in Arizona, 36 in Oregon, and 64 in Orange County, California alone!

So why do people in this day and age with all the negative health news and organizations like MADD getting the word out, still drink and drive? The first issue is that many of us have to travel far distances to actually go to a party or visit with friends. This means we need to get into an automobile, we can’t just walk down the street. Furthermore, alcohol can make you feel energized and more sociable at first; so many people don’t “feel” like they are drunk when they actually are. However, as the night wears on, the alcohol actually acts like a depressant, slowing down the central nervous system, delaying reaction times, and wreaking havoc on coordination, all of which add up to a disaster on the road. Alcohol also makes you feel more relaxed and less stressed so it impairs decision-making skills. Many people who have been drinking aren’t thinking or worried about their abilities and think if they pay extra attention, everything will be fine. Lastly, in some cases people are too embarrassed to ask someone to drive them home or don’t want to bother anyone to pick them up.

Aside from the possibility of injuring or killing yourself or someone else due to drunk driving, there are a number of other consequences that make it just not worth it. The time it takes to handle the entire situation is a huge burden. Not only will you spend time in jail, but will have to appear in court for sentencing and any follow-up that needs to get in front of the judge. You will also most likely have to spend at least an hour a week attending alcohol awareness classes for months and months. This means hours away from work and your family. Furthermore, the financial setback is huge. There are fines in every state, attorneys fees and the cost of alcohol evaluations and state mandated classes. Don’t forget that your license will be revoked for a period of time so you will have to deal with the costs and hassle of public transportation or relying on someone else to get you around. Lastly, a DUI on your record could hurt your chances for current or future employment. It makes you look unreliable and irresponsible.

So, instead of the dealing with the stress of ending up at a DUI checkpoint after a couple of drinks, plan ahead. Pick a designated driver and provide them with their favorite non-alcoholic drinks all night long. Take a taxi. Plan on spending the night at the home where the party is taking place or call a friend, parent or spouse to come pick you up. Things can change in an instant and it can be seriously difficult to live the rest of your life with the results of the bad decisions you’ve made after a night of drinking.