Don't drink and drive - alcohol impairs response time, perception, judgment, more

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ignacio Castro-Luna
  • Air Force Flight Test Center Ground Safety
Alcohol-related traffic crashes are defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as alcohol-related if either a driver or a non-motorist had measurable or estimated blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or above.

Alcohol has a significant effect on the functions of the body that are vital to driving. Below are some of the ways alcohol affects people and impairs their ability to drive.

Alcohol impairs response time

In order to safely drive a car, you must have excellent reflexes so you can respond to your constantly changing environment - the dog that darts into the road; the car that unexpectedly cuts in front of you; the changing traffic light, etc. Since alcohol depresses the central nervous system, it slows reflexes and response time, making unanticipated events more likely to contribute to car accidents.

Alcohol impairs perception

We have all seen people who have had too much to drink stagger around as they try to walk. They may think they are walking in a straight line, and their perception is so far off they do not realize they are wandering in circles. Now imagine someone who is that drunk behind the wheel of a car. Drunk drivers often swerve back and forth between lanes or even cross the median into oncoming traffic.

Alcohol impairs judgment

You probably do not even realize what a big role judgment plays in your driving. Do you have time to get through that yellow light or should you stop? Is it safe to pass on that two-lane highway or should you wait for oncoming traffic? People who have been drinking will make poor decisions that may result in car accidents.

Alcohol decreases inhibitions

Alcohol silences that little voice in our heads that says "No." It's what Sigmund Freud called the superego. While under the influence, we are more likely to try stupid, dangerous things like going too fast or doing unsafe stunts.

You can prevent alcohol-related accidents and fatalities by doing the following:

· Making a plan (are you going to be drinking or not?).
· If you plan on drinking, do you have a designated driver?
· Never ever drink and drive.

Car accidents involving alcohol can be lethal. If you want to spare you and your loved ones a lot of needless agony, do not drink and drive.