Happy New Year!
It is that time of the year again will more people will be driving drunk than any other night of the year. Unfortunately a lot of inexperienced drunk drivers will on the road. A lot of people will have their judgment impaired and think they are perfectly capable of driving but they will be drunk. This year in addition to the local police, the Tennessee Highway Patrol plan a “No Refusal” enforcement campaign during the New Year’s Eve holiday period. The campaign begins at 12:01am, Wednesday, December 31st and concludes at 11:59pm, Sunday, January 4th.
The “No Refusal” enforcement will be conducted in one county in each of the eight THP Districts across the state, and is aimed at deterring impaired driving and reducing fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. The “No Refusal” legislation allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers.
The participating “No Refusal” counties include Roane (Knoxville District); McMinn (Chattanooga District); Rutherford (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Washington (Fall Branch District); Cumberland (Cookeville District); Maury (Lawrenceburg District); and Hardin (Jackson District).
Getting arrested for drunk driving is only one reason not to drive drunk. The most important reason is you could kill yourself or someone else. Don't drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license.
Since this time last year the opportunities for alternative transportation has greatly increased in the Nashville area. I have not used Lyft but have used Uber several times and it is a great service. I don't know if there will be enough livery service vehicles on the road to meet demand on New Years Eve, but a great thing about services like Uber and Lyft is that the supply expands with demand on a moments notice. When a lot of people want the service, the price goes up and people who may not have wanted to work to earn $20 an hour might want to work if they can earn $50 in an hour so more drivers will get on the road as demand and price increases. When peak demand periods pass, prices drop. So, if you are using Uber and want to leave the party immediately after the "ball drops" and the price is outrageous, wait an hour and the price will drop.
It would probably be impossible to have enough taxis, black cars, Ubers, Lyfts, Sidecars or limousines to transport all of the people who should not be driving on New Years eve, but the opportunity for an alternative to driving yourself is greater than it has ever been.
Another alternative is Sober Ride. Sober ride is a service of the Sheriff's office. They will drive you home and there is no reporting or penalty for using the service. Sober ride pick up points are Second Avenue and Church Street, Demonbreun Street at the Roundabout, and Five Points in East Nashville. Sober ride operates from 10PM to 2AM.
Having said all of this however, I know that there are going to be thousands of people who will be driving in the early hours of New Year's day that will not think they are not too drunk to drive but will have had a sufficient amount of adult beverage that they could register drunk even though they don’t think you are drunk.
I myself have probably driven many times when I would have registered drunk had I been stopped. I am not by any means advocating driving drunk, but if you are driving impaired I am providing these tips to help you increase your chances of getting home safely without getting arrested.
This guide from the Rod Williams School of Drunk Driving is provided to help you improve your drunk driving skills.
(1) Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. See the above. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and whether or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a Blood Alcohol Content that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”
(2) Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” That is what often happens. If for New Years you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, and a champagne toast at midnight, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.
On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.
A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of 100 proof distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.
Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.
(3) Plan your trip. Point your car in the direction of home. Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. This means I do not have to circle a block and be concerned about traffic lights and stop signs. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught. It is worth parking four or five blocks away to reduce your exposure.
(4) Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.
(5) Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate
to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container. You may be perfectly capable of driving, but if a drunk passenger is yelling "Happy New Year" out the window, the police may stop the car and give you a drunk driving test. The moment you get in the car the party is over.
(6) Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped me is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.
(7) Concentrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Don't answer the phone. If you feel you must answer the phone, safely pull off the road. Don't even engage in conversation. Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.
(8) Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast. Make them pay attention to your driving.
(9) If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken. Of course if you are stopped by the THP in one of the counties listed above, you might as well do the Breathalyzer because of the "no refusal" policy in those counties this year.
I have never been arrested for drunk driving but I admit I have been guilty of it. I guess I have been lucky. As a young adult I was more often guilty of it than I have been as an older adult. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still have probably technically met the blood alcohol level for being drunk. Stay safe. Drive careful. Happy New Year.