Professional drivers will tell you it takes more than basic skills to make a good driver. After mastering those skills, a driver still must learn the fine points of good driving - including the mental and physical conditions that affect performance on the road.
Driver error causes more than 90% of highway crashes. Your ability to drive safely depends not only on what you know, but how you feel and what you were doing before you climbed behind the wheel.
Your Mood Affects Your Driving
If you're worried or distracted, you can't count on being alert enough to drive safely. Quarrels, misunderstandings, financial problems, illness in the family, personal fears or over-confidence make you far more likely to have an accident.
If you're upset, let someone else drive.
You should also be aware of how getting behind the wheel can affect your behavior. Taking control of the power and speed of a car often reveals a person's character. You soon see whether you're inclined to be a bully, a thoughtless lawbreaker, or a reliable and courteous driver. To drive safely, you must find the maturity to share the road and help your fellow travelers.
Concentration is vital to safe driving. The driver's seat is no place for daydreaming, window shopping, intense conversation, or looking at scenery. There have been too many crashes after which the surviving driver said "I don't know what happened."
Fatigue and Highway Hypnosis
Stop driving when you feel drowsy. Pull off the highway at the first rest stop or service area. A cup of coffee and a bit of stretching may be enough to wake you. If you're really sleepy, get off the road and take a nap. Drowsiness is one of the greatest killers in interstate highway driving. Don't rely on "stay awake" drugs. They can make your driving even more dangerous.
On long trips, exercise your eyes as you drive. Freeway drivers often suffer "highway hypnosis" - drowsiness brought on by monotony and the drone of wind and tires. Keep shifting your eyes from one area of the roadway to another and focus them on various objects - near and far, left and right. Even reading road signs can help you stay awake.
Drinking and Driving
Many adults drink and most adults drive. Unfortunately, they often combine the two. About half of all fatal accidents involve drinking drivers. Alcohol kills some 25,000 people a year on our highways.
In recent years, the public has demanded that this carnage be reduced. Lawmakers, including those in Idaho, have responded by passing tougher laws on driving under the influence of alcohol. You can avoid accidents and serious legal problems by not driving when you have been drinking.
How Drinking Affects You
Alcohol passes directly through your stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream, where it flows to all parts of your body. On an empty stomach this process takes place almost immediately. On a full stomach, it takes somewhat longer. In either case, when the alcohol reaches your brain, it promotes relaxation. In large amounts, it dulls the parts of your brain that control inhibition, judgment and self-control. As a result, you may feel stimulated, lively, a bit giddy or foolish.
After two to four drinks, alcohol begins to impair your reaction time, coordination and balance. Your vision and ability to judge distance suffers, too, making it harder to react to dangers ahead.
In heavy doses, alcohol can be a mood changer producing sudden shifts in mood all the way from elation to anger. Studies show a combination of alcohol and anger is responsible for much of the reckless, aggressive driving that often causes fatal highway crashes.
Food can slow down the absorption of alcohol. This delaying action prevents large amounts of alcohol from going to your head immediately. But, if you drink a lot, eating won't prevent a high blood alcohol concentration.
If alcohol is already in your bloodstream, neither aspirin, black coffee, deep breathing, a slap in the face, exercise, nor eating will sober you up. Only time will return you to normal.
How Much is Too Much?
You can't trust yourself or your friends to judge the quality of your driving after you've had a few drinks. Your ability to drive may be impaired long before you or anyone else notices outward signs.
The only scientific way to check how your drinking affects you is by testing for alcohol concentration, which can be done by testing your breath or blood.
Alcohol concentration is determined by three factors: how much you've drunk, how much you weigh, and the passage of time.
If you drink enough to increase your alcohol concentration past .05, be careful. At slightly above .05, the risk of causing an accident doubles. At .10, the risk is six times as great. At .15, the risk is 25 times as great.
Idaho Law and Drunken Driving
Under Idaho law you are considered intoxicated if your alcohol concentration is .08 or more (.02 if you are under 21, .04 in a commercial vehicle). Even if it's not more than .08, you may be convicted of drunken driving on other evidence. An alcohol concentration of .20 or more carries even stiffer penalties.
If you're convicted, the penalties are:
* For a first conviction: Up to six months in jail; up to a $1,000 fine; and mandatory driver's license suspension of at least 90 days and up to 180 days (one year if you are under 21), with absolutely no driving privileges for the first 30 days.
* For a second conviction within five years: Mandatory jail sentence from 10 days to one year; up to a $2,000 fine; and a mandatory driver's license suspension of one year (two years if you are under 21).
* For a third or more conviction within five years: Mandatory jail sentence of from 30 days to five years; up to a $5,000 fine; and mandatory driver's license suspension from one to five years. This conviction is a felony.
Alcohol Tests and the Law
When you accept an Idaho driver's license, you give your implied consent
to take an alcohol concentration test if arrested for driving under the
influence. When arrested, you may refuse to take the test, but if you
do, your license will be seized by the arresting officer. The officer
may issue you a temporary driving permit good for 7 days; giving you the
opportunity to request a hearing through the court or until a hearing
is held on the seizure of your license if you requested a hearing. If
the court upholds the officer's findings, your license will be suspended
for 180 days for refusing to take the alcohol concentration test if it is
your first offense. This penalty is in addition to any penalty you receive
in court for an alcohol or drug-related conviction. A second refusal within
five years will result in a one-year suspension. These suspensions do not
provide for restricted privileges of any kind.
If you take and fail an evidentiary test, the peace officer will arrest you, seize your driver's license, and if you are eligible, issue you a temporary driving permit valid for 30 days. You will have the opportunity to request an administrative hearing within seven days of your arrest, to contest the seizure and suspension of your license and driving privileges before an before an Idaho Transportation Department Hearing Officer.
If you fail to request a hearing within the seven-day time period or do not prevail at the requested hearing, your license will be suspended for 90 days on a first offense (you may be eligible to receive a restricted driving permit for the last 60 days of your suspension). A second or subsequent offense within five years will result in a one-year suspension, with absolutely no driving privileges of any kind.