Driving Under the Influence can cost you a lot: money to hire a lawyer and pay court fees, your license, and even your life. Our firm is skilled at helping clients pick back up the pieces after being charged with driving under the influence, but we also know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Save yourself the stress, time, and loss of a DUI charge by following these DUI Prevention tips the next time you enjoy a night out (or in!).
The key to avoiding any crisis is to plan ahead. When you’re attending an outing where there will be alcohol, you should think ahead about how to get there and home safely. Likewise, if you’ve had a couple of drinks at home and plan on going out later, you should make safe travel plans in advance. You should confirm these travel plans before you start drinking, so that you’re in your clearest headspace while making plans.
For example, if you’re going out with a group of friends or family, select a designated driver who will stay sober and ensure that everyone gets home safely. It’s best to rotate this position out within a group each time you go out, so that everyone takes a fair turn being the sober friend. If you’re going out alone, consider having a loved one, a taxi, or a rideshare service (such as Lyft or Uber) drop you off and pick you up from the location of the event. If you’re in an area with public transit, use Google Maps to figure out your route in advance and type out which bus/train you’ll be taking to which stop in the notes app of your phone
When in doubt, ask the bartender for help. Many bars keep a list of transportation services online and will help you arrange for someone to come pick you up.
No matter what your plans are for the night, if you plan on drinking, the best thing you can do is leave your car keys at home and find another ride. And if you’re already out and have no way to get home other than driving yourself, do not drink any amount of alcohol. Your future self will thank you for being cautious!
Take Care of Yourself and Your Friends
When you’re out drinking with friends or family, you not only want to make sure that you’re safe, but that they’re safe as well. If you believe that your loved one is too intoxicated to drive, you should try your best to prevent them from getting behind the wheel. Encourage your friend to arrange a ride for themself, or call a ride for them. You can also suggest your friend sit down with you to enjoy some food and water, or take a walk around the block to distract them from their intention to drive. It may be awkward, but taking your intoxicated friend’s keys from them can save their life.
Don’t get a DUI yourself by offering to take the wheel, though. Only offer to drive someone home if you haven’t had any alcoholic drinks. Your friend may end up riding to jail with you if they ask you to drive them home and you get charged with a DUI in their car! Tennessee’s Silas Gable Flatt law, TCA §55-10-427, makes it a criminal offense for a person to “knowingly provide a motor vehicle to another person who the provider of the vehicle knows or reasonably should know is under the influence of an intoxicant.” Violating TCA §55-10-427 is a Class A misdemeanor. For first–time offenders, a conviction of what is often called “DUI by consent” carries a mandatory sentence of 48 hours in jail. Help yourself and your friends avoid spending the weekend in jail by keeping car keys out of the hands of anyone who’s been drinking.
Quit while you’re ahead
Remember that it’s often really difficult to tell when you’ve become too impaired to drive. Because alcohol clouds your judgment, once you start drinking, you are no longer in a good state of mind to make the call on whether or not you can drive safely. Likewise, it’s difficult to tell if your friend is too intoxicated to drive when the alcohol in your system is catching up to you. Even to sober people, not everyone who is intoxicated appears intoxicated at the time they leave the party. Someone may seem like they have clear speech and good coordination, but still be incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. Since an individual’s blood alcohol content increases, hits its peak, then slowly decreases as their body metabolizes the intoxicant, your friend may actually feel progressively more drunk over their drive home.
Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat plenty of food while drinking. But, most importantly, quit drinking while you’re ahead. Don’t drink if you know you need to drive. Alternatively, quit driving while you’re ahead. Put your car keys well out of reach before you start drinking. Everyone’s body metabolizes alcohol differently, especially under different circumstances (such as how much sleep you’ve gotten), so it’s impossible to make generalizations such as “I’ve only had two drinks, I’m okay to drive.” Keep matters simple for yourself by deciding in advance not to drink and drive.
Let time work its magic
Contrary to popular belief, drinking coffee or dunking your head in cold water won’t help you sober up. Your liver simply needs time to metabolize alcohol. If you find yourself buzzed at a bar with no way home, find someplace safe to wait for your body to process the intoxicant in your system. Ideally, you’ll find a hotel or motel to crash at, so that you can wake up sober and drive home from there. Check out services like Booking.com and HotelTonight to see if there are any available hotel rooms within walking distance of the bar.
Caution, though: do NOT try to sleep it off in your car! The DUI laws of Tennessee and Georgia only require that drivers be in physical control of a vehicle, not that they actually drive while under the influence. This may seem like a catch-22, but you can be charged with DUI while sitting in a parked car if you’re found to be in control of the vehicle. Ultimately, this is why it’s best to keep your car keys out of your hands entirely once you begin drinking.
Research how your medication interacts with alcohol
Many people do not realize that their prescription medication can have an adverse interaction with alcohol that could leave them sick or greatly impaired. Alcohol consumption can affect your ability to metabolize medication and alter the pharmacological effects your medication has. Vice versa, medication may impact your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, resulting in a higher BAC. Unfortunately, you just cannot continue drinking the way you once did when you begin taking certain medications. The National Institute of Health’s Library of Medicine provides this helpful online search engine where you can search your medicine and learn about its interactions with alcohol and other drugs.
Here’s some common alcohol-prescription interactions we’ve noticed here at Best & Brock:
Lorazepam, Xanax, Klonopin, and Other Benzodiazepines
Lorazepam, often prescribed as Ativan, has dangerous side-effects when mixed with alcohol. Like other benzodiazepines, Lorazepam is a sedative that is often used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Mixing any sedative with alcohol is dangerous because both sedatives and alcohol are depressants, which affect the central nervous system by slowing down messages between the brain and body. Overdosing on depressants can also slow your breathing and pulse to a dangerously low rate. Most people who mix lorazepam and alcohol do not overdose, but still experience severe side effects. The symptoms can range from a groggy feeling, inability to concentrate, and lack of coordination to loss of consciousness or even coma. Demonstrably, an individual cannot drive when mixing lorazepam with alcohol.
Anticoagulant and Cardiovascular medications
Certain heart medications also have a dangerous interaction with alcohol. For example, Verapamil, used to treat arrhythmia and high blood pressure, significantly inhibits alcohol metabolism. This means you will likely experience a higher blood alcohol content which remains elevated for a longer period of time when you drink alcohol while taking verapamil. Another example: the side effects of propranolol, a beta blocker, are increased as a result of alcohol consumption. Patients may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and changes in heart rate and blood pressure if they drink while taking propranolol.
When your doctor prescribes you a new medicine, be sure to ask about its interactions with alcohol and other drugs you take or are considering taking. Keep your health and safety in mind before drinking!
We hope these tips can help you and your loved ones get home safely the next time you go out for drinks. Remember that preventing a DUI is all about thinking ahead. In the case that you are arrested for DUI, reach out to Best & Brock, PLLC to discuss your options for resolving your case. We are highly experienced in the DUI laws of Tennessee and Georgia, and can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system.