While it shows a potentially fatal error in judgment, one DUI/DWI does not necessarily mean that a person is in active addiction. A DUI/DWI can, however, indicate an unhealthy dependence on alcohol or drugs or even an undiagnosed substance use disorder.
Why Does it Matter?
A lot of people rationalize their choice to get behind the wheel while impaired by saying that they’ve done it before without any problem, that they don’t have that far to go, or that they feel fine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), however, impaired driving is a huge problem that routinely leads to unnecessary deaths:
- In 2016, nearly 10,500 people died in crashes due to an alcohol-impaired driver. That is more than a quarter of all crash fatalities for the year.
- That same year, 214 children, ages 0 to 14 years, died because of an alcohol-impaired driver.
- About 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involved drugs other than alcohol.
What If I am Arrested for Impaired Driving?
Each state has slightly different rules about how they handle DUI/DWI arrests. If your arrest occurred in California, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Website may be able to answer some of your questions, such as what you should do if law enforcement took your license away, how long your license could be suspended, and how to find an appropriate program to qualify for getting your license back.
How Does Driving Under the Influence Tie Into Addiction?
As mentioned above, one ticket for impaired driving does not prove a person has substance use disorder. It can, however, be a sign of substance misuse; at the least, it clearly shows that a person is not exercising good judgment. A 1995 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although 15 years old, is still relevant; it found the following to be risk factors for impaired driving:
- Friends who encourage heavy drinking
- A desire to “get wasted”
- A person’s inability to recognize how heavily under the influence they truly are
- For students, being part of a “party crowd”
- For non-students, having long-established patterns of drinking
These factors can also feed into becoming dependent upon a substance, especially if the person’s day-to-day activities seem to be affected, if they have driven impaired before, or if there is a family history of addiction.
Do I Need Treatment?
Whether you’ve been caught driving impaired, driven impaired without getting caught, or feel like you are turning to substances as a way to escape things that are troubling you, it might not be a bad idea to get help. If you were caught driving impaired, you may be court ordered to get treatment. Otherwise, your primary care physician may be able to make a referral, or you can contact a treatment facility to talk with an admissions counselor about your situation. The admissions process at Valley Recovery Center is outlined on our website.
How to Avoid Driving Under the Influence
Fatalities that result from drivers who are impaired are avoidable. According to State Farm, a nationally recognized auto insurance company, there are a variety of ways to ensure that you and your loved ones aren’t getting behind the wheel when you should not:
- Don’t drink or use drugs at all if you are in recovery.
- Never get into a car with someone who has been drinking or using.
- Take car keys away from anyone who seems like they will try to drive impaired, even if they get angry about it. It is preferable that they be angry than dead or charged with vehicular manslaughter.
- If you are not in recovery or suffering from addiction:
- Designate a driver who commits to not drinking/using drugs.
- Don’t drink or use drugs if you are not able to get a ride or a cab.
- Drink plenty of water and eat a filling meal to allow your body to better process whatever you do consume.
- Call a taxi, Uber, or Lyft if you ever feel like you are not safe to drive for any reason.
If you are seeing signs that you or someone you love might be struggling with substance misuse, Valley Recovery Center is here to help.