December 08

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Today in Science

Drive Sober and Safely

Every 51 minutes, someone in the United States dies as a result of drunk and/or drugged driving.

Did you realize that more than 10,000 people die on the road annually due to drunk driving? That's a fatality every 51 minutes, with injuries coming every two minutes. In 2015, alcohol-related driving fatalities accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic deaths. Did you know 431,000 people are injured and more than 3,100 people killed in distracted driving crashes every year? To send a text message while you're driving, you take your eyes off the road for, on average, five seconds. When traveling at 55 mph, that's the equivalent of covering the length of a football field blindfolded. How about that the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by a third when listening to or talking on the phone? Or that 10.3 million people report driving under the influence of drugs? Among drivers fatally injured, 18% tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug. How about that researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.

This month is particularly dangerous on the roads due to more traffic, a high level of distraction and stress, and a high incidence of alcohol and drug-related traffic crashes. During December 2015, drunk and/or drugged drivers killed 840 people in traffic crashes.

December is the annual National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. First marked in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan, this observance highlights the problems that may occur when someone consumes alcohol, takes drugs—either legal or illegal, or doesn't get enough sleep and then drives, as well as those that may occur when someone use a mobile device or is otherwise distracted while behind the wheel. Encourage everyone to drive responsibly—even if that means not responding to a text or call or choosing not to drive when impaired or not to get into a car with a driver who isn't clear-headed.

Students can learn about the likely causes of distracted driving and its possible effects, the dangers of cell phones and driving, the risks of using hands-free devices while driving, and how it's difficult to drive and talk at the same time. Science NetLinks also offers a collection of resources exploring the science behind alcohol, as well as an e-book that examines the effects of alcohol on the body and some of the physical and social consequences of underage drinking. Parents might also find useful our guide that discusses research on the impact of alcohol on the growing body and offers tips on how to talk to kids about drinking. Find out more about the importance of sleep for teens and hear how quickly sleep deprivation starts to affect our bodies. Further understanding with a lesson about risks and benefits, as well as a Science Update discussing risk remedies.

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