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How does holiday drinking affect your driving?

The holidays are a time of joy and merriment and usually involve alcohol. It is also a time for travel, and drinking and driving are not a good combination. It is important to know how alcohol affects your ability to drive so you can make smart choices as you attend holiday parties and celebrate the season. Do not be a part of the 1.4 percent of North Carolina residents who drive despite being intoxicated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The effects of alcohol on driving skills

Illegal blood alcohol levels reach or exceed 0.08 percent, but lower levels still have negative impacts on your body. A level as low as 0.02 percent already begins to decrease your ability to track a moving target, make wise judgments and divide your attention between two tasks, all of which are required to drive safely. An increase to 0.05 percent leads to a decline in coordination (including steering ability), alertness and reaction time. These losses can still contribute to major accidents and injuries.

Going above the legal limit severely impairs your judgment, memory, control, information processing and perception. Properly maneuvering a vehicle becomes difficult or unimportant, leading to dangerous behaviors such as swerving and speeding. The more you drink, the worse the effects get. You may not think you have been drinking enough for your driving to be impaired, but factors such as your weight, sex, food intake and speed of alcohol consumption can affect your blood alcohol level.

How to spot a drunk driver

It is also important to know how to recognize a drunk driver so you can stay out of the way to avoid an accident after your holiday festivities. These are a few signs you should look for:

  • Nearly hitting objects or other vehicles
  • Driving in undesignated areas
  • Drifting in and out of the lane or straddling the lane line
  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Making nonsensical, erratic or inconsistent driving actions

If you notice these signs, pull over and call 911. Give the driver's location, vehicle make and model, license plate if possible and driving behaviors.

Another reason to avoid drinking is that if a drunk driver crashes into you, North Carolina law says you cannot receive compensation if you share any responsibility for the accident. Having some alcohol in your body may take away your ability to sue for damages. The best course of action to take after an accident is consultin g a Raleigh personal injury lawyer to ensure the right approach to your case.

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