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How Alcohol Affects Driving


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Every day, 28 people in the United States die in alcohol-related vehicle crashes – that’s one person every 51 minutes.” While drunk driving fatalities have reduced by one-third in the past 30 years, over 10,000 people are still killed in drunk driving crashes every year, the NHTSA reports.

How does alcohol affect driving ability? For starters, alcohol affects the way the brain functions. Alcohol reduces the brain’s ability to function properly. When a person consumes alcohol, it directly affects thinking, reasoning, muscle function, and judgment. Each of these abilities is necessary for safe driving, so alcohol compromises a person’s ability to drive safely.

Negative Effects of Alcohol

As a person increases the amount of alcohol consumed, the negative effects of the alcohol increase accordingly, and the more the central nervous system is affected. When alcohol is consumed, it’s absorbed by the walls of the small intestine and stomach. From there, the alcohol is passed into the bloodstream and the liver metabolizes it.

In all states, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. Once a person’s BAC reaches .08%, the following starts to occur:

  • The person’s muscle coordination becomes poor. For example, the person accidentally knocks over drinks, bumps into things, and has trouble standing upright without stumbling.
  • Reaction time is slowed down.
  • Speech and vision are affected.
  • Self-control is affected.
  • Memory and judgment are impaired.

As the person consumes more alcohol, the negative effects become more pronounced. For example, at .10% BAC, the person will experience slurred speech and poor coordination. At .15% BAC, the person may vomit and they will experience a major loss of balance.

“Driving after drinking is deadly. Yet it continues to happen across the United States. If you drive while impaired, you could get arrested, or worse – be involved in a traffic crash that causes serious injury or death,” says the NHTSA.

Facing DUI charges in Orange County? Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry for a free case evaluation with the DUI Queen!

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