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Alcohol and Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol kills more than 11,000 people in the United States annually.  And the long-term heavy alcohol use can cause serious health conditions.

Each year, in Illinois there are more than 400 deaths due to alcohol-related accidents.  Ronald Kanwischer, assistant professor of psychiatry and a substance abuse counselor at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the alcohol level at which drivers are considered intoxicated.

SOUND BITE:    “ . . .  in Illinois, it’s .08 as it is in many states and to reach that a couple of factors take a role here.  One is the number of drinks consumed over what amount of time.  Boys can drink more than girls can.  But on average, for the average 180 pound man, it takes four or five drinks for him to reach .08 if he consumes them in about an hour’s time.”

Kanwischer says there are serious legal and medical consequences to consuming alcohol and for driving under the influence.  The most serious legal charges can carry a substantial fine.  If the driver hurts another person, they can be sentenced to jail or even lose their license.  From a medical perspective, long-term heavy alcohol use can cause health conditions such as cancer and liver failure.  Kanwischer offers suggestions about drinking and driving.

SOUND BITE:  Number one is plan ahead – make up your mind you are not going to do that.  Number two, choose a designated driver.  If you are hosting a party, assign somebody to be a designated driver and be willing to take away people’s keys if they are intoxicated.  Have plenty of food there and encourage drinking to occur on a slower basis.”

Kanwischer says eating helps absorb the alcohol, especially foods such as cheese and crackers.  He urges people to celebrate responsibly.  If someone has a drinking problem, they should see their primary care physician or mental health counselor.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.