How Alcohol Impairs Your Driving Skills - 7 Reasons to Drive Sober

How does Consumption of Alcohol Affect Your Driving Skills? 7 Reasons to Drive Sober

Drunk driving, also known as impaired driving, is a huge problem in the United States – and other parts of the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, impaired drivers are responsible for as much as 29 deaths every day – that is 1 in every 50 minutes. 

Given the alcohol’s effect on the body and the mind, there is no good reason for you to drink and drive. And should you insist to do so, remember that alcohol can impair your driving skills in several ways:

1. Alcohol can affect your vision.

Good eyesight is necessary for driving. You might be 20/20, but this can easily change with a glass of alcohol. According to a study by Zhao et al, alcohol, even at low doses, can affect vision and other skills that are vital for safe driving. 

This is supported by the Centers for Disease Control, with experts stating that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% – which is equivalent to 2 beers – can affect vision in such a way that you could no longer track a moving item.  This is alarming, as the ability to navigate through (if not avoid) moving vehicles – and people – is necessary for an accident-free drive. 

Similarly, alcohol can also affect color distinction. When this happens, you may not be able to differentiate signals, traffic signs, and other markings that possess different colors. Again, such changes may lead to accidents and whatnot. 

2. It slows your reaction time.

A swift response time is necessary when driving. A child or a dog might cross the road and you need to be quick enough to avoid it. Unfortunately, if you drink alcohol, you will not be able to immediately respond to obstacles on the street. That’s because liquor affects the central nervous system (CNS). 

When the CNS is impaired, it can make you think, move, and speak slower. There is already poor muscle coordination at a BAC of 0.08% (equivalent to an intake of about 4 beers), and such brings about a slow reaction time. As per the book “Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities: A Comprehensive Approach to a Persistent Problem,” this may lead you to drive at higher speeds – a vital ingredient for a vehicular disaster. 

It is also important to note that a BAC reading of 0.08% is already a violation of the law, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Should your breath test manifest such a result, your license and driving privileges would definitely be suspended. 

3. It impairs your judgment. 

Judgment is defined as the ability to make a decision wisely and objectively. This skill is essential for everyday life, especially when it comes to driving. One wrong judgment may mean the difference between life and death. 

Alcohol, when consumed in excessive amounts, can make a driver feel ‘adventurous,’ as per the results of the study by Zhao et al.

It can also affect the cerebral cortex, which governs thought processes. When it is severely affected, as with the case of a BAC of 0.08%, the drinker is most likely to execute poor judgment. 

4. It affects your coordination. 

Steady hands on the wheel, people always say. But this is quite impossible if you drink before your drive. Alcohol affects your brain and body coordination so much so that you’re putting one foot in the grave should you decide to drive after drinking. 

Alcohol affects the cerebellum, the center of thoughts, awareness, and coordination. You may end up jittery, unable to grasp things correctly. If you were standing, you might even lose your balance and fall. 

Reduced coordination is readily apparent in a BAC of 0.05% – or about 3 drinks – and such can affect steering. At 0.06%, hand steadiness is negatively affected. At a BAC of 0.10%, which is equivalent to 5 beers, braking is hampered adversely.

5. It lowers your comprehension.

The hippocampus is the center for memory, and it can be direly affected with alcohol consumption. In fact, too much drinking can lead to hippocampal tissue loss, as reported in a ScienceDaily article. This is one of the reasons why you tend to forget one’s name after a drink or two. 

While this may not be alarming for most, continuous alcohol drinking can diminish your comprehension in such a way that it may be difficult to drive. Just think – even if you’re an experienced driver, an impaired hippocampus can dull your senses in the middle of the road – while you are soaring at 60 miles per hour. 

6. It interferes with your perception and concentration. 

Concentration is important for driving, as with other vital activities. Unfortunately, alcohol is powerful enough to distract you. At a BAC of 0.08%, good perception and concentration are technically out of the window.

Additionally, alcohol can affect the hypothalamus, which is in charge of the body’s routine activities. If you find yourself hungry, thirsty or wanting to pee after a few bottles, then it’s the hippocampus kicking in. It’s quite dangerous to be feeling these things when you are driving. As they are basic needs, they may affect your concentration – and such may lead to accidents, even death. 

7. The higher the BAC, the higher the chances of an accident.

Expectedly, the more alcohol you drink, the higher the chances you will get in an accident. This claim was proven in the study of Zhao et al, where those with a BAC of 0.09% exhibited an accident rate of 8.7%. Low BAC yielded the same disastrous results as well, with a BAC of 0.03% corresponding to a 5.22% accident rate. A BAC of 0.06%, on the other hand, resulted in an accident rate of 6.96%. 

With that being said, a low BAC may still lead to accidents, according to Phillips and Brewer. The researchers are actually calling for a lower BAC limit (<0.08%) to be ticketed for a DUI. 

With that being said, it’s best to stay at the safe side by NOT drinking and driving. And if this cannot be avoided, get a cab or an Uber/Lyft, especially if no one is sober enough to be the designated driver amongst your friends. 

Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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