Taking it too far and becoming impaired


Drinking impairs perception and reaction times, making intoxicated people much more dangerous behind the wheel.

Spring break has sprung again, and many fun-loving students will be enjoying a week of beaches, bikinis and beer while others may be staying in Pullman, with no classes to keep them out of trouble.

But there is a line between relaxing fun and danger.

Director of WSU Health and Wellness Dr. Dennis Garcia said personal responsibility plays a huge part in curbing alcohol-related incidents, including drunk driving.

Women are more likely to establish a designated driver when drinking, Garcia said, because men –especially when drinking – are less concerned with the possible outcomes of their actions.

“People who drink regularly may not feel the effects when they are impaired, and things happen that are beyond control and could change your life,” Garcia said. “Every year I see students return from break with completely avoidable injuries.”

He said injuries he has seen range from facial fractures to groin tears.

Garcia said after consumption, a person usually takes an hour to feel impaired by alcohol, depending on how much food is in their stomach or how well rested they are.

“A breath test is the best on-the-spot gauge of impairment,” Garcia said, “other than that, it’s hard to tell how drunk someone is because there are so many factors at play.”

Dr. Peter Mikkelsen is the medical director of emergency services at Pullman Regional Hospital. He said a significant number of traumatic injuries at PRH are alcohol related, but falls from balconies or windows have recently outnumbered vehicle-related injuries.

“When people drink, their judgment is gone and they think they can do whatever,” Mikkelsen said.

Mikkelsen said aside from risk of injury while drunk, regular alcohol consumption could cause long-term liver and brain issues.

When a drunk driver is caught, the streets are safer but the perpetrator is thrust into a world of hurt.

Pullman Police Operations Commander Chris Tennant said legally, receiving a DUI is simply not worth it.

“From license issues to lawyer’s fees, you’re going to be spending a lot of money out of pocket,” said Tennant, “they’re just expensive.” 

Not only is the monetary penalty huge, Tennant said, but the professional implications are as well.

“You’re looking at major career roadblocks,” said Tennant, “with a DUI on your record, that resume for an elementary teaching position is probably going to be thrown in the trash.”

Tennant said texting and driving has become a huge problem, due to the social acceptance of smartphones being an ever-present part of modern life.

“Every time you’re stopped at a red light, you can probably look over and see someone staring at their lap,” said Tennant. “A vast majority of kids text and drive, and it’s just as dangerous.”