People often tell me they just don't understand how it is that they ended up with a DUI because they "felt fine." They ask me, "How does this happen?"
Feeling Fine Doesn't Mean You Are Fine
One of the "issues" with drinking and then driving is that often a person who has been drinking cannot determine whether they are impaired or over the legal limit. The vast majority of individuals I have spoken to who have been charged with DUI have reported that they felt fine. To be sure, even those who's tests have come back substantially over the legal limit, consistently report feeling good to drive. The classic example of this phenomenon is the person at a party who is clearly intoxicated but insists that he is fine. Truth be told, I am sure he did feel fine. One of the reasons we drink is because alcohol has a tendency to make people feel good.
The problem, of course, is that feeling good, does mean you are actually good to drive. Needless to say, because of how alcohol has this tendency to hide its effects from our conscious minds, people go out and drink, feel fine, and then drive. Some get stopped by law enforcement and then to their shock find themselves charged with DUI.
Avoid Driving If You Have Been Drinking
The obvious way to avoid a DUI is to not drink and then drive. While this is good advise, it is not always practical or realistic. We all go to dinner with loved ones, bosses, or business associates and have a drink or two. We all go to weddings and celebrate with the new bride and groom. To be sure, the sharing of drinks with others has long been associated with the the bonding of relationships, whether they are personal or business. The best advice I can give is to try not to drink and drive. If possible, have a designated driver or take a cab. But, if you find yourself in a situation where you will be having something to drink and then driving here are some helpful tips or precautions.
Count Your Drinks
Have a method other then "memory" to keep track of the drinks you have consumed. I have heard from some people that they save the mixing sticks out of their cocktails so that they don't loose track of what they drank. This is smart. Memory is one of the first things affected by alcohol, so regardless of how you do it, do not rely upon your memory to determine what you have consumed.
Limit your consumption and stick to it. Don't drink what you know is an acceptable amount, and then drink more telling yourself you "feel fine."
Avoid Strong Drinks
Avoid drinks where you do not know how much alcohol is them, such as mixed drinks with multiple shots or sangria or punch type drinks loaded with unknown amounts of alcohol. These drinks are great if you are not driving, but simply not smart if you will driving later in the evening. Also avoid drinks made with exceptionally strong alcohol such as 151 rum. Keep in mind, a "standard" drink is calculated to be one domestic beer, one four ounce glass of wine, or a 1.25 oz shot of 80 proof hard alcohol.
So with this in mind, a rum drink with several shots of 151 is close to four "standard" drinks. It will not take many of these types of drinks to get a person seriously intoxicated. Same goes for multi-shot mixed drinks. A Long Island Ice Tea typically has three to five shots of alcohol in it. Drink just two strong Long Island Teas and you may be walking around with close to 10 shots you. Many people would recognize that driving after drinking close to a 12 pack of beer would not be wise, but may nonetheless not think twice about driving after two or three Long Island Teas, not recognizing that they drank close to or more than a 12 pack.
Don't Let Others Re-Fill Your Drink
Do not let others top off or refill your drinks. One of the easiest ways to lose tracks of how much you have consumed is when your drink is never empty. I have seen people start with a glass of wine. Their host politely refills when it is half empty. Next thing you know, they have consumed a whole bottle with out ever knowing it. Bottom line is that if you are driving, you need to personally control what you drink.