Driving under the influence of alcohol is known as drunk driving. The relative risk of a motor vehicle accident increases even with a small increase in blood alcohol content. Approximately 28 people are killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States every day – one every 52 minutes.
What effect does alcohol have on driving?
In addition to reducing the function of the brain, alcohol impairs reasoning, thinking, and muscle coordination. Driving safely requires a combination of these capabilities.
Alcohol levels affect the central nervous system negatively as they rise in the body. The wall of the stomach and small intestine absorbs alcohol directly. After that, it enters the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is processed by the liver. The amount of alcohol in a given volume of blood is used to gauge a person’s level of intoxication. This is known as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The crash risk increases exponentially at a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL).
Nevertheless, even a small amount of alcohol will impair your driving ability. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,775 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2019 where the driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 grams/dl.
Drivers can be tested for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with a breathalyzer or a blood test.
How does blood alcohol concentration (BAC) affect drivers?
Drinking alcohol interferes with the body’s functions, such as driving and being able to function, in a big way. The main effect of alcohol is that it depresses the brain. The first thing that alcohol does to the brain disrupts the functions of integration and control. Once the cortex of the brain has been released from its integrating and controlling functions, judgmental and behavioral processes are disrupted and the proper operation of behavioral tasks is also disrupted. When you are drunk, you lose various skills that are required to function on a daily basis.
Among the main effects of alcohol is that it severely impairs the ability to shift attention from one thing to another in an effective manner without affecting sensory-motor abilities. Alcoholics are not able to shift their attention properly while intoxicated because the senses are affected. Intoxicated people also have a narrower field of vision than sober people. Having to turn the eyes to the side or move them rapidly from one point to another disrupts the information the brain receives from the eyes.
Georgia DUI Infographic (Drunk Driving Facts and Stats)
The Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in G/DL
Types of effects
What Are The Predictable Effects On Driving
|A little loss of judgment; some relaxation, a little body heat, altered mood
|Reduced ability to perform two tasks at once (divided attention), decline in visual tracking of moving targets
|The person may exhibit exaggerated behavior, will usually have impaired judgment, good feelings, a lowered level of alertness, and may lose control of his or her jaw muscles.
|Inability to coordinate, inability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, a slower response to emergency situations while driving
|It becomes harder to detect danger because of poor muscle coordination (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reflexes, and hearing); judgement, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired as well.
|Impairment of concentration, short-term memory, speed control, signal detection, visual search, and impaired perception, as well as diminished ability to process information
|Slurred speech, poor coordination, and slow thinking, along with deterioration of reaction time and control
|Having a difficult time maintaining lane position and braking as needed
Muscle control may be drastically reduced, vomiting may occur (unless the level has been slowly reached or the person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), loss of balance may occur
|Significant impairment of vehicle control, attention to driving tasks, and processing of visual and auditory information
What is the implied consent law in the United States?
All fifty states have implied consent laws requiring drivers to submit to chemical testing after arrest. As of now, these laws are legal and in compliance with the Constitution. A driver’s license suspension is a common consequence of implied consent laws (which apply criminal penalties).
Police have to establish probable cause before invoking implied consent. In order to obtain probable cause evidence, which is necessary for arrest or invoking implied consent, Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs or SFSTs) and Preliminary Breath Tests (PBTs) are frequently used. Several states have passed laws based on the principle of implied consent which imposes criminal penalties.
What are the risk factors?
Driving while intoxicated
In the United States, drunk driving remains a serious problem. It is possible to get arrested for driving under the influence, or worse – be involved in a traffic crash that leaves you seriously injured or dead.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one-third of all traffic accident deaths involve drunk drivers (BAC of .08 g/dL or higher). In 2019, there were 10,142 traffic accidents involving drunk drivers. During the 10-year period 2010-2019, drunk-driving crashes killed over 10,000 people on average per year.
Every 52 minutes, someone died in a drunk-driving accident in the United States in 2019, even though it’s illegal to drive drunk in all 50 states.
Teens die in car accidents a lot, and one-quarter of those crashes involve an underage driver who had been drinking. Young drivers killed in accidents in 2019 had blood alcohol concentrations of .01 g/dL or higher in 24% of cases.
The minimum legal drinking age of 21 has been adopted by all states to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes among youth. Between 1975 and 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that minimum drinking ages have saved 31,959 lives.
Among drivers aged 21-to-24, 27% had BAC levels of .08 g/dL or higher, followed by those aged 25- to 34, 25%. There are four drunk male drivers for every drunk female driver, which makes up the majority of this type of accident.
The number of people killed in motorcycle accidents in 2019 was 4,733. Among them, 1,383 motorcyclists (29%) tested drunk (BAC over .08).
Alcohol-impaired driving was found to be the most common contributing factor to fatal motorcycle crashes (25%).
For 2019, the group of 40-to-44-year-olds killed by drunk motorcycle operators had the highest percentage, 40%.
What does the abuse of alcohol cause?
Drinking and driving repeat offenders are very dangerous and deadly. There was a fourfold increase in prior convictions for driving while impaired among drivers with .08 g/dL or higher in fatal crashes than drivers without alcohol (9% and 2%, respectively).
Alcohol affects more than just the driver when it comes to drunk driving. Almost one-fifth (19%) of children killed in auto accidents in 2019 were killed by drunk drivers. Almost 53 percent of the time, the driver of the child was drunk.
Aside from the human costs of drunk driving, the financial impact is devastating: impaired-driving crashes cost the United States $44 billion per year, according to data for 2010 (the most recent year for which cost data is available).
Whare the consequences of drunk driving?
Drinking and driving puts you in danger. Due to the strict enforcement of drunk driving laws since the 1980s, drunk-driving-related deaths have decreased significantly. A driver’s license may be revoked, fines imposed, and jail time can be served for driving while impaired. These penalties are expensive as well. If the offender is convicted for the first time, the fines and legal fees can exceed $10,000.
Offenders are often required to install an ignition interlock device at their own expense in many states. Interlock devices are devices that test a driver’s breath when he or she attempts to start the car. Drivers can operate vehicles only if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is lower than a preset low limit, usually .02 g/dL.
What is responsible behavior?
Taking responsibility as a driver is as simple as this: if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive.
- Consider a non-drinking friend to be your designated driver before you start the party.
- You should not let someone you know drive if they have been drinking. Offer to pick them up so they can get home safely.
- Don’t drive if you have been drinking. Call a sober friend, a taxi, or a ride-hailing service.
- Don’t forget to have a sober driver available to your guests if alcohol will be served at your party.
- You are your best defense against impaired drivers if you wear a seat belt.
Contact local law enforcement if you see an impaired driver. You might save someone’s life!