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Alcohol, Drugs & Other Driving Rules

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2.22 – Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Driving

2.22.1 – Alcohol and Driving

Drinking alcohol and then driving is very dangerous and a serious problem. People who drink alcohol are involved in traffic accidents resulting in over 20,000 deaths every year. Alcohol impairs muscle coordination, reaction time, depth perception, and night vision. It also affects the parts of the brain that control judgment and inhibition. For some people, one drink is all it takes to show signs of impairment.

How Alcohol Works. Alcohol goes directly into the blood stream and is carried to the brain. After passing through the brain, a small percentage is removed in urine, perspiration, and by breathing, while the rest is carried to the liver. The liver can only process one-third an ounce of alcohol per hour, which is considerably less than the alcohol in a standard drink. This is a fixed rate, so only time, not black coffee or a cold shower, will sober you up. If you have drinks faster than your body can get rid of them, you will have more alcohol in your body, and your driving will be more affected. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) commonly measures the amount of alcohol in your body. See Figure 2.22.

What Is a Drink?

It is the alcohol in drinks that affects human performance. It doesn’t make any difference whether that alcohol comes from “a couple of beers,” or from two glasses of wine, or two shots of hard liquor. Approximate Blood Alcohol Content

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

Effects

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe
Driving Limit

1

.04

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

.02

.02

Impairment
Begins

2

.08

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

.03

.03

Driving Skills
Significantly
Affected –

Criminal Penalties

3

.11

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

.05

.05

4

.15

.12

.11

.09

.08

.08

.07

.06

5

.19

.16

.13

.12

.11

.09

.09

.08

6

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

7

.26

.22

.19

.16

.15

.13

.12

.11

Legally
Intoxicated –

Criminal Penalties

8

.30

.25

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

.13

9

.34

.28

.24

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

10

.38

.31

.27

.23

.21

.19

.17

.16

Figure 2.22

All of the following drinks contain the same amount of alcohol:

  • A 12-ounce glass of 5% beer.
  • A 5-ounce glass of 12% wine.
  • A 1 ½-ounce shot of 80 proof liquor.

What Determines Blood Alcohol Concentration? BAC is determined by the amount of alcohol you drink (more alcohol means higher BAC), how fast you drink (faster drinking means higher BAC), and your weight (a small person doesn’t have to drink as much to reach the same BAC).

Alcohol and the Brain. Alcohol affects more and more of the brain as BAC builds up. The first part of the brain affected controls judgment and self-control. One of the bad things about this is it can keep drinkers from knowing they are getting drunk. And, of course, good judgment and self-control are absolutely necessary for safe driving.

As BAC continues to build up, muscle control, vision, and coordination are affected more and more. Effects on driving may include:

  • Straddling lanes.
  • Quick, jerky starts.
  • Not signaling, failure to use lights.
  • Running stop signs and red lights.
  • Improper passing.

See Figure 2.23.

Effects Of Increasing
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Blood Alcohol Content is the amount of alcohol in your blood recorded in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Your BAC depends on the amount of blood (which increases with weight) and the amount of alcohol you consume over time (how fast you drink). The faster you drink, the higher your BAC, as the liver can only handle about one drink per hour—the rest builds up in your blood.

BAC

Effects on Body

Effects on
Driving Condition

.02

Mellow feeling, slight body warmth.

Less inhibited.

.05

Noticeable relaxation.

Less alert, less self-focused, coordination impairment begins.

.08

Definite impairment in coordination & judgment .

Drunk driving limit, impaired coordination & judgment.

.10*

Noisy, possible embarrassing behavior,
mood swings.

Reduction in reaction time.

.15

Impaired balance & movement, clearly drunk.

Unable to drive.

.30

Many lose consciousness.

.40

Most lose consciousness, some die.

.50

Breathing stops, many die.

Figure 2.23

These effects mean increased chances of a crash and chances of losing your driver’s license. Accident statistics show that the chance of a crash is much greater for drivers who have been drinking than for drivers who have not.

How Alcohol Affects Driving. All drivers are affected by drinking alcohol. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, coordination, and reaction time. It causes serious driving errors, such as:

  • Increased reaction time to hazards.
  • Driving too fast or too slow.
  • Driving in the wrong lane.
  • Running over the curb.
  • Weaving.

2.22.2 – Other Drugs

Besides alcohol, other legal and illegal drugs are being used more often. Laws prohibit possession or use of many drugs while on duty. They prohibit being under the influence of any “controlled substance,” amphetamines (including “pep pills,” “uppers,” and “bennies”), narcotics, or any other substance, which can make the driver unsafe. This could include a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs (cold medicines), which may make the driver drowsy or otherwise affect safe driving ability. However, possession and use of a drug given to a driver by a doctor is permitted if the doctor informs the driver that it will not affect safe driving ability.

Pay attention to warning labels for legitimate drugs and medicines, and to doctor’s orders regarding possible effects. Stay away from illegal drugs.

Don’t use any drug that hides fatigue–the only cure for fatigue is rest. Alcohol can make the effects of other drugs much worse. The safest rule is don’t mix drugs with driving at all.

Use of drugs can lead to traffic accidents resulting in death, injury, and property damage. Furthermore, it can lead to arrest, fines, and jail sentences. It can also mean the end of a person’s driving career.

2.23 – Staying Alert and Fit to Drive

Driving a vehicle for long hours is tiring. Even the best of drivers will become less alert. However, there are things that good drivers do to help stay alert and safe.

2.23.1 – Be Ready to Drive

Get Enough Sleep. Sleep is not like money. You can’t save it up ahead of time and you can’t borrow it. But, just as with money, you can go into debt with it. If you don’t sleep enough, you “owe” more sleep to yourself. This debt can only be paid off by sleeping. You can’t overcome it with willpower, and it won’t go away by itself. The average person needs seven or eight hours of sleep every 24 hours. Leaving on a long trip when you’re already tired is dangerous. If you have a long trip scheduled, make sure that you get enough sleep before you go.

Schedule Trips Safely. Try to arrange your schedule so you are not in “sleep debt” before a long trip. Your body gets used to sleeping during certain hours. If you are driving during those hours, you will be less alert. If possible, try to schedule trips for the hours you are normally awake. Many heavy motor vehicle accidents occur between midnight and 6 a.m. Tired drivers can easily fall asleep at these times, especially if they don’t regularly drive at those hours. Trying to push on and finish a long trip at these times can be very dangerous.

Exercise Regularly. Resistance to fatigue and improved sleep are among the benefits of regular exercise. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Instead of sitting and watching TV in your sleeper, walk or jog a few laps around the parking lot. A little bit of daily exercise will give you energy throughout the day.

Eat Healthy. It is often hard for drivers to find healthy food. But with a little extra effort, you can eat healthy, even on the road. Try to find restaurants with healthy, balanced meals. If you must eat at fast-food restaurants, pick low-fat items. Another simple way to reduce your caloric intake is to eliminate fattening snacks. Instead, try fruit or vegetables.

Avoid Medication. Many medicines can make you sleepy. Those that do have a label warning against operating vehicles or machinery. The most common medicine of this type is an ordinary cold pill. If you have to drive with a cold, you are better off suffering from the cold than from the effects of the medicine.

Visit Your Doctor. Regular checkups literally can be lifesavers. Illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and skin and colon cancer can be detected easily and treated if found in time.

You should consult your physician or a local sleep disorder center if you suffer from frequent daytime sleepiness, have difficulty sleeping at night, take frequent naps, fall asleep at strange times, snore loudly, gasp and choke in your sleep, and/or wake up feeling as though you have not had enough sleep.

2.23.2 – While You Are Driving

Keep Cool. A hot, poorly ventilated vehicle can make you sleepy. Keep the window or vent cracked open or use the air conditioner, if you have one.

Take Breaks. Short breaks can keep you alert. But the time to take them is before you feel really drowsy or tired. Stop often. Walk around and inspect your vehicle. It may help to do some physical exercises.

Be sure to take a mid-afternoon break and plan to sleep between midnight and 6 a.m.

Recognize the Danger Signals of Drowsy Driving. Sleep is not voluntary. If you’re drowsy, you can fall asleep and never even know it. If you are drowsy, you are likely to have “micro sleeps”–brief naps that last around four or five seconds. At 55 miles an hour, that’s more than 100 yards, and plenty of time for a crash. Even if you are not aware of being drowsy, if you have a sleep debt you are still at risk. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re about to fall asleep. If you experience any of these danger signs, take them as a warning that you could fall asleep without meaning to.

  • Your eyes close or go out of focus by themselves.
  • You have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You can’t stop yawning.
  • You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
  • You don’t remember driving the last few miles.
  • You drift between lanes, tailgate, or miss traffic signs.
  • You keep jerking the truck back into the lane.
  • You have drifted off the road and narrowly missed crashing.

If you have even one of these symptoms, you may be in danger of falling asleep. Pull off the road in a safe place and take a nap.

2.23.3 – When You Do Become Sleepy

When you are sleepy, trying to “push on” is far more dangerous than most drivers think. It is a major cause of fatal accidents. Here are some important rules to follow.

Stop to Sleep. When your body needs sleep, sleep is the only thing that will work. If you have to make a stop anyway, make it whenever you feel the first signs of sleepiness, even if it is earlier than you planned. By getting up a little earlier the next day, you can keep on schedule without the danger of driving while you are not alert.

Take a Nap. If you can’t stop for the night, at least pull off at a safe place, such as a rest area or truck stop, and take a nap. A nap as short as a half-hour will do more to overcome fatigue than a half-hour coffee stop.

Avoid Drugs. There are no drugs that can overcome being tired. While they may keep you awake for a while, they won’t make you alert. And eventually, you’ll be even more tired than if you hadn’t taken them at all. Sleep is the only thing that can overcome fatigue.

Do Not. Do not rely on coffee or another source of caffeine to keep you awake. Do not count on the radio, an open window, or other tricks to keep you awake.

2.23.4 – Illness

Once in a while, you may become so ill that you cannot operate a motor vehicle safely. If this happens to you, you must not drive. However, in case of an emergency, you may drive to the nearest place where you can safely stop.

2.24 – Hazardous Materials Rules For All Commercial Drivers

All drivers should know something about hazardous materials. You must be able to recognize hazardous cargo, and you must know whether or not you can haul it without having a hazardous materials endorsement on your CDL license.

2.24.1 – What Are Hazardous Materials?

Hazardous materials are products that pose a risk to health, safety, and property during transportation. See Figure 2.24.

Hazard Class Definitions

Class

Class Name

Example

1

Explosives

Ammunition, Dynamite, Fireworks

2

Gases

Propane, Oxygen, Helium

3

Flammable

Gasoline Fuel, Acetone

4

Flammable Solids

Matches, Fuses

5

Oxidizers

Ammonium Nitrate,
Hydrogen Peroxide

6

Poisons

Pesticides, Arsenic

7

Radioactive

Uranium, Plutonium

8

Corrosives

Hydrochloric Acid, Battery Acid

9

Miscellaneous Hazardous
Materials

Formaldehyde, Asbestos

None

ORM-D
(Other Regulated Material-Domestic)

Hair Spray or Charcoal

None

Combustible Liquids

Fuel Oils, Lighter Fluid

Figure 2.24

2.24.2 – Why Are There Rules?

You must follow the many rules about transporting hazardous materials. The intent of the rules is to:

  • Contain the product.
  • Communicate the risk.
  • Ensure safe drivers and equipment.

To Contain the Product. Many hazardous products can injure or kill on contact. To protect drivers and others from contact, the rules tell shippers how to package safely. Similar rules tell drivers how to load, transport, and unload bulk tanks. These are containment rules.

To Communicate the Risk. The shipper uses a shipping paper and diamond shaped hazard labels to warn dockworkers and drivers of the risk.

After an accident or hazardous material spill or leak, you may be injured and unable to communicate the hazards of the materials you are transporting. Firefighters and police can prevent or reduce the amount of damage or injury at the scene if they know what hazardous materials are being transported. Your life, and the lives of others, may depend on quickly locating the hazardous materials shipping papers. For that reason, you must identify shipping papers related to hazardous materials or keep them on top of other shipping papers. You must also keep shipping papers:

  • In a pouch on the driver’s door, or
  • In clear view within reach while driving, or
  • On the driver’s seat when out of the vehicle.

2.24.3 – Lists of Regulated Products

Placards are used to warn others of hazardous materials. Placards are signs put on the outside of a vehicle that identify the hazard class of the cargo. A placarded vehicle must have at least four identical placards. They are put on the front, rear, and both sides. Placards must be readable from all four directions. They must be at least 10 3/4 inches square, turned upright on a point, in a diamond shape. Cargo tanks and other bulk packaging display the identification number of their contents on placards or orange panels.

Identification Numbers are a four digit code used by first responders to identify hazardous materials. An identification number may be used to identify more than one chemical on shipping papers. The identification number will be preceded by the letters “NA” or “UN.” The US DOT Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) lists the chemicals and the identification numbers assigned to them.

Not all vehicles carrying hazardous materials need to have placards. The rules about placards are given in Section 9 of this manual. You can drive a vehicle that carries hazardous materials if it does not require placards. If it requires placards, you cannot drive it unless your driver license has the hazardous materials endorsement. See Figure 2.25.

Figure 2.25

The rules require all drivers of placarded vehicles to learn how to safely load and transport hazardous products. They must have a commercial driver license with the hazardous materials endorsement. To get the required endorsement, you must pass a written test on material found in Section 9 of this manual. A tank endorsement is required for certain vehicles that transport liquids or gases. The liquid or gas does not have to be a hazardous material. A tank endorsement is only required if your vehicle needs a Class A or B CDL and your vehicle has a permanently mounted cargo tank of any capacity; or your vehicle is carrying a portable tank with a capacity of 1,000 gallons or more.

Drivers who need the hazardous materials endorsement must learn the placard rules. If you do not know if your vehicle needs placards, ask your employer. Never drive a vehicle needing placards unless you have the hazardous materials endorsement. To do so is a crime. When stopped, you will be cited and you will not be allowed to drive your truck. It will cost you time and money. A failure to placard when needed may risk your life and others if you have an accident. Emergency help will not know of your hazardous cargo.

Hazardous materials drivers must also know which products they can load together, and which they cannot. These rules are also in Section 9. Before loading a truck with more than one type of product, you must know if it is safe to load them together. If you do not know, ask your employer and consult the regulations.

Test Your Knowledge

  • Common medicines for colds can make you sleepy. True or False?
  • What should you do if you become sleepy while driving?
  • Coffee and a little fresh air will help a drinker sober up. True or False?
  • What is a hazardous materials placard?
  • Why are placards used?
  • What is “sleep debt”?
  • What are the danger signals of drowsy driving?

These questions may be on the test. If you can’t answer them all, re-read subsections 2.22, 2.23, and 2.24