June 12, 2023

Mindset Shift: Changing Your Perspective About Drinking and Driving

changing your perspective on drinking and driving

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Julie Miller

Addiction & Mental Health Writer

Last Update on March 1, 2024

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Despite numerous campaigns and strict legal repercussions, drinking and driving continues to be a concerning issue worldwide.

In order to tackle this problem effectively, it is essential to foster a collective mindset shift that challenges societal norms and personal beliefs about the acceptability of driving under the influence.

In this article, we delve into how a shift in mindset can serve as a catalyst for behavioral change, ultimately leading to safer roads, saved lives, and overall safer communities for everyone.


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The Prevalence and Consequences of Drinking and Driving


Alcohol-impaired driving is a leading cause of traffic fatalities, presenting a major public safety concern.

According to statistical data, a significant proportion of traffic-related deaths involve alcohol impairment 1.

These figures indicate that alcohol dramatically increases the risk of fatal road accidents, underlining its role in traffic fatalities.

Even low levels of alcohol can impair driving skills, slowing reaction times and distorting perception, making collisions far more likely.

These statistics underscore the gravity of the issue, illustrating the high human cost of drunk driving.

They shed light on the urgent need for a mindset shift about drinking and driving, emphasizing the importance of preventive measures, stringent enforcement of laws, and public education about the risks associated with alcohol-impaired driving.


Year Total Traffic Fatalities Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities % of Fatalities from Alcohol
2016 37,806 10,967 29%
2017 37,473 10,908 29%
2018 36,560 10,511 29%
2019 36,096 10,142 28%



Statistics consistently reveal that certain age groups are particularly susceptible to incidents of drunk driving.

Young adults, especially those in the 21-24 age bracket, tend to have higher rates of alcohol-impaired driving incidents.

This increased risk is often attributed to a combination of factors, including lack of driving experience, peer influence, and a heightened tendency towards risk-taking behaviors.

However, it’s important to note that drunk driving is not exclusive to any age group and can be a problem across all ages.

While younger drivers might be overrepresented in these statistics, any individual, irrespective of age, can make the dangerous choice to drink and drive.

This underscores the importance of targeting all age groups with efforts to promote awareness about the risks and consequences of drinking and driving.


Age Bracket % of Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes
16-20 15%
21-24 27%
25-34 25%
35-44 21%
45-54 19%
55-64 15%
65-74 10%
75+ 7%



Research consistently shows gender disparities in drunk driving incidents.

According to the available statistics, men are more likely to be involved in alcohol-impaired driving incidents compared to women2.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2018, 21% of male drivers involved in fatal crashes were drunk, compared to 14% of females.

This can be attributed to a range of factors, including societal norms, different drinking patterns, and risk-taking behavior.

However, it’s important to note that while the rates may differ, the risks and consequences of drunk driving are the same for all genders.


The Current Perspectives on Drinking and Driving


Drinking and driving continues to be a serious dilemma for many, despite the devastating consequences it has for many.

This paradox can be attributed to the prevailing mindset that trivializes the risk associated with this behavior.

Many individuals perceive that they can maintain control even after consuming alcohol or assume that accidents only happen to others.

They often underestimate the effects of alcohol on their cognitive and motor functions, and overestimate their ability to drive safely after drinking.



In some social circles, drinking and driving has unfortunately become a normalized or downplayed behavior 3.

This normalization is often a result of a mixture of peer influence, societal attitudes, and misinterpretation of media portrayals.

It’s not uncommon for groups to encourage or dismiss risky behavior like drinking and driving under the guise of ‘having fun’ or ‘letting loose’.

There’s also a dangerous myth that one can develop a tolerance for alcohol that allows them to drive safely after drinking.

This misconception is often propagated by media depictions of characters consuming alcohol without experiencing any adverse effects.

These factors combined have created an environment where driving under the influence is not seen as a serious or potentially deadly offense, but rather an accepted or overlooked aspect of social outings.



Common justifications people make for driving under the influence often stem from overconfidence, denial, or a misunderstanding of how alcohol impairs one’s abilities.

Overconfidence is frequently observed when individuals convince themselves that they are skilled or experienced enough to handle driving even after consuming alcohol.

They might dismiss the risks, believing that their driving abilities are unaffected, or at least less impaired than others would be.

Another common justification is denial, where individuals might acknowledge the general risk of drunk driving, but convince themselves that they are not as drunk as they feel or that they are still within safe limits.

This misguided belief often results from a lack of understanding about how alcohol impairs reaction times, judgment, coordination, and other critical driving skills.

These misconceptions highlight the need for enhanced education and awareness regarding the real effects of alcohol and the dangers of drunk driving.



There’s a profound lack of understanding about the potential consequences of drinking and driving among many individuals.

They often fail to grasp the gravity of the risks involved, both to themselves and others.

Many underestimate the impact of alcohol on their cognitive and motor skills, thinking they can safely operate a vehicle after a few drinks.

However, the truth is, even small amounts of alcohol can significantly impair judgement, reflexes, and coordination, making accidents far more likely.

Beyond the immediate physical risks, they also overlook the potential legal repercussions, which can include heavy fines, loss of license, and even imprisonment.

Furthermore, the long-term effects such as the emotional trauma associated with causing harm to oneself or others, the strain on personal relationships, and the potential for chronic health issues are often entirely disregarded.

This lack of awareness and understanding about the true consequences contributes significantly to the persistence of the problem.



Alcohol dependency can significantly distort an individual’s perspective on drinking and driving.

When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, their judgement and decision-making abilities become compromised.

Alcohol becomes a central part of their life, often clouding the perception of risk and consequences associated with their behaviors, including drinking and driving.

They may start to believe that they ‘need’ to drink and drive to function normally, continue their daily routines, or cope with stress.

This mindset not only normalizes the hazardous act of drinking and driving but also makes it harder for individuals to recognize it as a problem.

They may even start to rationalize this behavior, thinking they are immune to the harmful effects of alcohol or capable of handling the vehicle even when impaired.

This mindset creates a vicious cycle, perpetuating the behavior and increasing the risk of accidents and legal consequences.


Consequences Related to Drinking and Driving


The legal penalties for drinking and driving are severe and can have a profound impact on an individual’s life.

These penalties often include hefty fines, which can impose a significant financial burden.

Beyond fines, drivers convicted of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) may face license suspension, drastically impacting their mobility and potentially their ability to maintain employment or fulfill other responsibilities.

In more severe cases, drunk driving can result in imprisonment, leading to the loss of personal freedom and significant disruption of one’s life.

Additionally, a DUI conviction typically remains on an individual’s record, possibly affecting future employment opportunities and causing insurance rates to skyrocket.

In some jurisdictions, mandatory alcohol education, assessment, or treatment may also be required.

The cumulative impact of these legal consequences serves to highlight the importance of not just understanding but also acting on the risks associated with drinking and driving.


The Need For a Mindset Shift


Recognizing individual responsibility for one’s actions, especially regarding drinking and driving, is crucial for promoting safety and well-being in our communities.

Every decision to drink and drive is a decision that can potentially harm not just the driver, but others on the road – pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers alike.

This reality underscores the fact that our actions extend far beyond ourselves, having the capacity to profoundly impact the lives of others.

Understanding this interconnectedness is an important part of fostering responsible behavior.

Being aware of the potential harm that could result from our actions, we should feel motivated to make safer choices not only for ourselves but also for the safety of others.

Taking responsibility means choosing not to drink and drive, arranging for alternative transportation when drinking, and encouraging others to do the same.



Individuals play a pivotal role in challenging and transforming societal attitudes towards drinking and driving.

Each person possesses the power to influence their immediate social circle and beyond through their actions and attitudes.

By choosing not to drink and drive, speaking against it, and supporting alternatives like designated drivers, public transportation, or ride-sharing services, individuals can help shift the societal norm.

Open dialogues about the real consequences of drunk driving can also debunk myths and misconceptions, fostering a more realistic and responsible view of this issue.

Moreover, by encouraging and supporting policies that discourage drinking and driving, individuals can promote systemic change.

Ultimately, each individual’s commitment to challenging the status quo and advocating for safer practices is integral to transforming societal attitudes towards drinking and driving.


Psychological Insights


Psychological studies provide valuable insights into the process of changing attitudes and behaviors.

According to the Theory of Planned Behavior, attitudes, subjective norms (social pressure), and perceived behavioral control (self-efficacy) together predict intention, which in turn predicts behavior 4.

Therefore, changing attitudes about drinking and driving, coupled with social norms that discourage such behavior and increased perceived control over abstaining from it, can lead to a decline in this risky behavior.

Research also suggests that interventions based on cognitive-behavioral approaches can effectively facilitate behavior change. For instance, strategies that help individuals recognize risky situations, develop coping skills, and build self-efficacy have been shown to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.

Further, studies have indicated the effectiveness of social influence in behavior change.

People are more likely to change their behavior if they perceive it to be socially desirable or normative.

Therefore, societal-level interventions that shift norms and attitudes towards drinking and driving can play a crucial role in influencing individual behavior.


Strategies For Changing Perspectives


Educational initiatives have proven to be highly effective in raising awareness about the risks and consequences of drinking and driving.

These DUI programs, which often include a combination of classroom instruction, multimedia campaigns, interactive activities, and first-hand accounts from victims or their families, provide individuals with critical knowledge about the dangers of alcohol-impaired driving.

They underscore the potential legal, financial, and personal ramifications, while equipping individuals with strategies to avoid drinking and driving.

Studies have shown that such initiatives can lead to changes in attitudes and behaviors, resulting in a decrease in drunk driving incidents.

Furthermore, these programs are vital in shaping societal norms, making them instrumental in driving a broader cultural shift towards safer, more responsible behaviors on the road.



Promoting responsible alternatives to driving under the influence is a vital aspect of combating drunk driving.

Designated drivers, individuals who abstain from alcohol to drive others home safely, are a popular and effective choice.

Their use encourages group accountability and ensures at least one person in the party is sober to handle the driving.

Public transportation is another practical alternative, eliminating the risk altogether by taking the possibility of driving out of the equation.

Ridesharing services, like Uber and Lyft, are also an excellent option, providing a reliable and convenient means of transportation for those who have been drinking.

Other alternatives can include asking a sober friend or family member for a ride, staying overnight, or even walking home if it’s safe and feasible.

Promoting these responsible choices, coupled with education and awareness initiatives, can significantly contribute to reducing the frequency of drunk driving incidents.


Overcoming Challenges and Treatment


Staying sober, especially amidst peer pressure and social expectations, can be challenging but is entirely achievable with the right strategies.

Assertiveness is key: being able to politely yet firmly say ‘no’ when offered a drink is essential.

It may feel uncomfortable initially, but with practice, it becomes easier.

Having a non-alcoholic drink in hand can often ward off unwanted offers for an alcoholic beverage.

Many social settings offer a variety of non-alcoholic choices, and even mocktails, that are both delicious and socially acceptable.

Furthermore, having supportive friends can make a significant difference.

Surround yourself with people who respect your decision to stay sober.

In some cases, you may find that your choice encourages others to consider their own drinking habits.

Lastly, remember the reasons behind your choice to stay sober.

Whether it’s for health reasons, personal beliefs, or to ensure you’re safe to drive, keeping these motivations in mind can help you resist peer pressure and societal expectations.

After all, personal safety and well-being are far more important than conforming to social pressures.



Alcohol use disorders can significantly impair an individual’s ability to make responsible decisions, including the decision not to drink and drive.

Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence is an effective strategy in preventing drinking and driving situations.

At Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we address both the physical dependency to alcohol and the psychological factors that contribute to addiction – such as stress, trauma, or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Treatment plans can vary by individual, but may include detoxification, individual therapy, meditation, and support groups.

Additionally, during treatment, individuals can start to rebuild damaged relationships, improve their overall health, and enhance their quality of life, providing further motivation to avoid risky behaviors like drinking and driving.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and driving, please reach out to our free and confidential line to speak with one of our representatives at (480) 863-0217.


Safer Roads and Healthier Communities

In our collective journey towards safer roads and healthier communities, it’s essential to rethink our attitudes towards drinking and driving.

It’s not just about following the law, but about making choices that respect and protect all lives.

Let’s shift gears and steer clear of impaired driving, turning our focus instead towards responsible decision-making.

Remember, the best trip is always the safe trip.



[1] Impaired Driving: Get the Facts

[2] Drunk Driving | Statistics and Resources – NHTSA

[3] Drunk driving has become prominent and normalized

[4] The Theory of Planned Behavior


AUTHOR: Julie Miller

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Author & Reviewers

julie miller recovery writer and author
Julie is a recovery advocate, with over two years sober. She is a recovery speaker who believes people can change for the better. Her mission is to write factual, helpful information about addiction, treatment, and recovery. She believes that no one should be left in the dark about the process at any stage of their recovery.
lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s treatment facilities in Arizona. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges, he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of conditions.

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