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How does alcohol impair the ability to drive?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that an average of 37 people die each day in the U.S. in alcohol-related accidents.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a grave concern, and it is essential to understand the profound impact that it can have on an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Alcohol impairs various critical skills required for safe driving, making it a significant risk to both the driver and others on the road.

Impaired cognitive functions

One of the most significant ways alcohol impairs driving is by affecting cognitive functions. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, slowing down brain activity. This can result in:

  • Reduced judgment and decision-making abilities
  • Slower reaction times
  • Impaired concentration and focus
  • Poor coordination

These impairments can make it challenging for a driver to assess situations, make quick decisions and respond effectively to changing traffic conditions.

Altered vision and perception

Alcohol also affects a driver’s vision and perception. It can lead to blurred or double vision, reduced night vision, difficulty judging distances and speeds and tunnel vision, where the driver’s field of view narrows. These visual impairments can result in misjudging distances between vehicles, missing critical road signs and not seeing pedestrians or obstacles in time to react.

Decreased motor skills

Alcohol impairs fine and gross motor skills, making it challenging to control a vehicle accurately. Drivers may experience difficulty maintaining a steady speed, problems with steering and keeping the vehicle within its lane and the inability to perform smooth and coordinated movements, such as braking or accelerating. These motor skill impairments can lead to swerving, erratic driving and an increased risk of accidents.

Overconfidence and risk-taking

Alcohol can also diminish a driver’s ability to assess their own impairment accurately. Many individuals under the influence of alcohol tend to become overconfident in their abilities and take more significant risks. This overconfidence can lead to reckless behaviors, such as speeding, aggressive driving and not wearing seat belts.

When all these impairments come together, it significantly increases the likelihood of accidents, making alcohol-related crashes a leading cause of road fatalities worldwide. These accidents can result in severe injuries, fatalities, property damage and emotional trauma for those involved.