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How alcohol affects driving skills

Everyone knows that drunk driving is not safe. Almost one third of traffic fatalities in the United States can be attributed to impaired drivers. This is because alcohol affects areas of human functioning that are essential to driving safely. While some people may downplay the effect alcohol has on them and claim that they are fine to drive, the biological mechanisms of alcohol impairment work the same for all human beings.


The first function that alcohol influences is the driver’s judgment. Even someone who is not yet feeling the physical effects of alcohol may already be experiencing its effect on his or her brain. Even a fairly low alcohol level can reduce the capacity to plan properly and make good decisions. As a result, the driver becomes more impulsive and erratic, and is less likely to handle an unexpected problem sensibly.


Another way drinking affects the brain is the ability to process and interpret stimuli clearly and quickly. When driving, this can mean failure to notice or understand signage, the inability to recognize hazardous behavior by other drivers and an increased level of distraction. Concentration is also affected, which lessens the ability to focus on the many factors that affect driving. A driver who is not concentrating can lose track of important factors such as the speed of the vehicle, the behavior of other vehicles and other external conditions.

Motor skills

Both fine and gross motor skills become compromised as the nervous system is affected by alcohol. As a result, drivers can find it difficult to make the proper physical motions necessary to safe driving, such as controlling their vehicle, responding to changes on the road or stopping at a red light. A drunk driver may fail to brake in time to avoid hitting the car in front, or may turn too fast or too wide.


Vision is another function that is significantly impaired by alcohol. A drunk driver has less control of his or her eye muscles and loses peripheral vision. Impaired drivers usually focus on just one point, as opposed to regularly scanning their surroundings. They also experience changes to their depth perception, leading them to misjudge the distance between other vehicles and their own.

Many victims of motor vehicle accidents are suffering because of a drunk driver who got on the road. Whether you were hit by another driver as a driver, passenger or pedestrian, or were injured when riding with a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak with a knowledgeable lawyer near you to find out about available options.