How Alcohol Affects Driving Ability

In 2016, the most recent year where data was available, a person was killed every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States. Alcohol has a profound negative effect on a person’s ability to drive. Here, traffic accident and DUI attorney, Jeffrey Scholnick, provides information about alcohol’s effect on the body and brain, and how this negatively impacts a person’s ability to drive.

Alcohol Reduces Muscle Coordination

Both fine and gross motor skills are negatively affected by the consumption of alcohol. Fine motor skills are those that require the use of smaller muscles, such as those found in the lips, fingers, wrists, eyes and hands. Gross motor skills require the use of larger muscles—movements performed by the arms, legs, torso and feet are all examples of gross motor skills. Because of the effect alcohol has on muscle coordination, it may be difficult to focus your eyes on a specific spot, press buttons, turn a steering wheel, push the brakes or accelerator and keep a vehicle moving in a straight line.

Alcohol Reduces Inhibitions

Alcohol has a strong impact on the limbic system, or part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior. This reduces the brain’s ability to process fear, danger and can cause your inhibitions to be reduced. All of these factors make it more likely for an intoxicated individual to take dangerous risks on the road and be unable to accurately process unsafe situations.

Alcohol Reduces Brain Function and Reaction Time

Alcohol causes the brain to work more slowly, and this can have a massive impact on decision making, communication and reaction time. One study showed that a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08—the legal limit in Maryland—had a reaction time that was 1/10 of a second slower than a sober driver. While this amount may seem small, this reduction in reaction time means that an individual driving at 70 mph would drive twelve feet further than a sober driver before reacting to a roadway hazard—and those extra twelve feet can be the difference between avoiding a hazard and becoming involved in a deadly accident.

Even Legal Amounts of Alcohol Consumption Can Have Negative Effects on Driving

As mentioned, the legal BAC to drive is .08; however, those with a BAC of .01-.07 can still experience the negative effects of alcohol while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 160-pound man who consumes two alcoholic beverages will experience some loss of judgement, reduced multitasking ability and a decreased ability to track a moving target. Because women generally weigh less than men, these effects may occur in women before two alcoholic drinks are consumed. At a .05 BAC, which equates to approximately three alcoholic drinks, a driver’s ability to steer and avoid roadway hazards is reduced significantly.

It is also important to note that drivers who exhibit any loss of motor or sensory abilities, regardless of their BAC, may be arrested by a law enforcement official for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), a more serious charge with steeper penalties. If a driver is under 21 years of age, there is a Zero Tolerance Policy and even a BAC of .02 can lead to arrest and conviction.

Law enforcement officials advise drivers to never operate a motor vehicle after consuming any level of alcohol.

Contact The Law Office of Jeffrey Scholnick for DWI and DUI Representation

If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI, you deserve to have your rights protected in court. The Law Office of Jeffrey Scholnick has years of experience handling these cases and understand that time is of the essence—contact us immediately for a free consultation.

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