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With so many warnings about DUI, why do people still do it?

You cannot avoid hearing about the dangers of DUI driving in Florida. There are warnings online, on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards and signs everywhere you look. You may even see them in your mailbox as part of the latest public information campaign. So why do people continue to drive while intoxicated? It may have something to do with what psychologists call desensitization.

Dr. Lindsay Bira, a clinical health psychologist, describes desensitization as a loss of emotional reaction following repetitive contact with a stimulus. Therapists use it to treat people with disorders such as PTSD or phobias. By gradually exposing them to the situation or event that causes fear, their brain learns that it not dangerous after all and the body's fearful reactions calms.

The flip side of desensitization is dangerous, however. Fear is an emotional response that helps humans stay alive. At its lowest level, it could be intuition or a sense that something is not right. At a high level, fear triggers a quick survival response, known as "flight or fight." In this way, fear protects us. However, overexposure to dangerous situations dulls or desensitizes man's natural reactions.

You may feel okay to drive after having a few drinks, and this may even be borne out by your BAC. If you become used to driving following a drink or two without having an accident or even a ticket, you may be even more likely to try driving after having three or four drinks. And then even more drinks. The decision to drive may then come because you are used to driving intoxicated without any problems. It has become a habit. But that does not make it safe.

Even if your driving is minimal while impaired, it helps desensitize you to the danger. In the end, you train yourself not to worry about driving drunk, and that is something to fear.

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