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If you’ve been drinking, here’s when you need to hand over your car keys.

It’s no secret that driving after drinking is dangerous. Being under the influence can impair your judgment, coordination and reaction time, making you more likely to get into an accident. But how much is too much? And what if you think you feel okay enough to drive?

Many people ask themselves those questions when they’re out enjoying themselves. Or they don’t ask the questions but assume that if they don’t feel very drunk, it’s okay to get behind the wheel. But that line of thinking not only puts you and others at risk of injury, it may also be illegal.

Here are some clear signs that you should get a ride home and not drive yourself:

  • You feel drunk. This is the most obvious sign, but if you’re feeling impaired, don’t drive.
  • You have difficulty concentrating or paying attention. This is a common side effect of alcohol and can make it difficult to drive safely.
  • You’re having trouble making decisions. Alcohol can make it harder for you to make good decisions, making it dangerous to drive.
  • You have trouble walking or standing up straight. This is another sign of impairment. If you’re having trouble with your balance, don’t get behind the wheel of an automobile.
  • Your vision is blurry. If you can’t see clearly due to alcohol, it’s definitely a sign that you should not be driving.
  • You’re feeling sleepy. If you’re struggling to stay awake, it can be dangerous to drive because you may doze off while on the road.

If you experience any of these signs, find a ride home with a sober friend or family member or take a taxi or ride-sharing service. Even if you don’t have easy-to-spot signs of impairment, it’s best to err on the side of caution if you’ve been drinking. That’s because even if you’re under the legal limit, you may not be able to react fast enough to prevent an accident from occurring.

A slower reaction time may cause you to drift into other lanes or off the road. It may be why you don’t react quickly enough if another driver pulls out in front of you or an animal or person darts into the road. You may not slow down in time if a traffic light turns red or may lose control of the car if an obstacle is in your way.

Keep in mind that drinking is not the only reason you should not get behind the wheel of a car. If you are under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, it is also dangerous and illegal to drive. Marijuana and other drugs affect areas of your brain that control coordination, memory, balance and judgment. This can make it harder for you to make decisions, slowing your reaction time. It can also distort your perception and impair your coordination, making driving dangerous. If you have used drugs of any kind, including marijuana, don’t drive.


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Date Last Reviewed: October 19, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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