From 21st Space Wing safety office
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — As the weather gets warmer, picnics and outdoor party season swing into gear. Many of the feasts our Knights will attend or host feature alcoholic beverages.
The simplest advice is to not operate any vehicle if you have had any amount of alcohol. A cab ride is much cheaper than a life or career lost for one night of fun. This may seem like common sense, but some Airmen fail to appreciate the various impacts alcohol can have on an individual.
There are many physiological and cognitive impacts of alcohol, as measured by blood alcohol content, and they can be mitigated.
The bottom line is, if you choose to imbibe, do not operate a vehicle. A good rule of thumb is to wait approximately 12 hours between bottle and throttle.
The level of impairment for a drinker is completely dependent on blood alcohol content.
BAC is expressed as a percentage and indicates how many milligrams of alcohol per 100 milligrams of blood. Alcohol affects your central nervous system by reducing its activity and as your BAC increases, your fine motor coordination decreases.
A BAC below 0.06 percent may be considered the “buzz zone.” The drinker may experience higher self-confidence, increased energy and a feeling of euphoria. The drinker may also have minor memory and reasoning impairment with lower risk management capabilities. In vehicle operations, the driver may become more confident in their abilities and drive more aggressively.
A BAC over 0.06 percent is identified as the “point of diminishing returns” where physiological and cognitive effects become more pronounced and observable. The drinker may transition from euphoria to sluggishness, fatigue, loss of coordination and slurred speech.
In the BAC range of 0.07 to 0.09, balance, vision, speech, reaction time and hearing are all slightly impaired. These are all observable phenomena.
At BAC of 0.10 to 0.125, you will significantly lose judgment, and motor reflexes are slowed an even greater amount. A driver behind the wheel when reaching the point of diminishing returns may have trouble steering and may step on the brakes too late or miss them entirely. Because of the depressed blood pressure, respiration and heart rates, drinkers’ eyes are slower to adjust to headlight glare and subsequent darkness. The slower pupil adjustment leads to temporary blindness for the drunk driver, which could cause him to crash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a driver with a BAC of 0.10 percent or greater is seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash than a driver who has not consumed alcoholic beverages. A driver with an alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or greater is about 25 times more likely to crash.
Coupled with the obvious physiological effects on motor skills and eye reflex, the point of diminishing returns impairs judgment severely enough to make poor decisions — often fatal ones.
Loss of control occurs in the BAC 0.13-0.2 range. Your euphoria earlier may be replaced by dysphoria, an intense anxiety or restlessness. The University of Rochester noted at BAC 0.11 to 0.2 percent, intense emotional swings, ranging from boisterous to angry to sad, can occur.
If you plan on going out for the night, have a sound plan to get home — this means you should have at least three ways to get home (designated driver, taxi, phone a friend).
As a rule of thumb, you should never drink more than one alcoholic drink per hour and no more than three drinks total per night. That is one 12-ounce beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine or one mixed drink. Pick only one, not one of each.
If you choose to drink, the following guidelines can help you be responsible while drinking:
• Sip alcoholic beverages slowly.
• Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eat at least 15 minutes before you drink, and continue to consume food while you drink.
• Carbonated water and mixers speed up alcohol’s effects. Therefore, add ice or noncarbonated water to dilute an alcoholic drink.
• Designated drivers should NEVER touch alcohol.
• Remember that the only way to sober up after drinking is to allow time for your body to absorb it and the alcohol to dissipate. Strong black coffee, cold showers or exercise do nothing to reduce intoxication. Sleep it off, call a cab or ask a friend to give you a ride.
• Have a plan and stick with the plan — many military members had a great plan to safely enjoy alcohol, then in their drunken stupor, they abandon it.