August 10, 2011 - If your social plans include consuming alcohol, experts at Greenview Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department say it is best to not plan on driving at all during the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. Samir Zakhari, director of the division of metabolism and health effects at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that drinkers who think they can tell when they've had enough are often wrong. "Alcohol can affect your reflexes even if you feel fine," he said.

"Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" is an annual nationwide enforcement effort to crack down on impaired driving and reduce roadway fatalities. This year's crackdown is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and supported by $14 million in paid national advertising to help put motorists on notice that if they are caught driving while impaired, they will be arrested.

Alcohol-impaired driving is a deadly crime that's still prevalent throughout America, especially among young males 21 to 34 years old. To crack down on alcohol-impaired driving, police in every state and most U.S. towns and cities will be out in record numbers from mid-August through Labor Day (August 19-September 5).

All fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have established a threshold making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter or higher. In 2009, 8,976 people 21 to 34 years old were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 47 percent (4,206) were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes according to statistics compiled by the NHTSA.

The percentage of drivers with BACs of .08 or above involved in fatal crashes in 2009 was highest for motorcycle riders (29 percent), followed by drivers of light trucks (23 percent) and passenger cars (23 percent).

Impaired driving is not an accident - it's an epidemic of careless disregard for human life. Each year, the number of people who die on our roads due to impaired driving would be equal to about 30 jumbo jets crashing. No one should ever get that late-night visit from the police telling you your loved one has died due to an impaired driver.

Just how much alcohol does it take to get intoxicated? How alcohol affects individuals is highly individual and depends on a number of factors. Experts generally agree that:

  • Quick "shots" of liquor hit the bloodstream faster than slow sips of wine. 
  • Drinking on an empty stomach impairs more than consuming alcohol with food. 
  • Women and older drinkers generally hit legal intoxication levels sooner than men and younger people. 
  • Carbonated beverages raise alcohol levels faster because the gas irritates the stomach lining, causing alcohol to be absorbed faster. 
  • Factors like fatigue, stress, illness and depression can magnify alcohol's impact.
  • Weight matters more than height. A man who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 180 pounds will be as affected as a man who is 5-foot-4 and 180 pounds, but a man who is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds will have a lower BAC after consuming the same amount. 
  • The liver can only break down alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour and anything more than that goes into the bloodstream. Once that happens, only time can make you less "drunk."

The best advice from experts is: if you are drinking, don't drive and if you are driving…don't drink!

About Greenview Regional Hospital
Celebrating 39 years of providing quality healthcare to southern Kentucky, Greenview Regional Hospital is a 211-bed, community-based facility with comprehensive medical and surgical programs including Neurosciences, Orthopaedics, 24-Hour Emergency Department, Digital Mammography, and other services. An affiliate of the TriStar Health System, Greenview Regional Hospital was the first Accredited Chest Pain Center in Kentucky, increasing the likelihood of survival in a cardiac emergency by 37 percent. For more information about the services offered and health plans accepted by Greenview Regional Hospital or TriStar Health System, call TriStar MedLine at 800-242-5662 or visit the website at and choose Greenview Regional Hospital.