According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 people die every day in the United States due to drunk driving – that is one fatality every 53 minutes.
Thanks to seat belt use and drunk driving education, fortunately the drunk driving fatalities have actually fallen by one-third in the last 30 years; however, your chances of being in an alcohol-related crash are still extremely high – 1 in 3 in your lifetime, says the NHTSA.
How Alcohol Affects Your Ability to Drive
Before people operated motor vehicles, alcohol wasn’t such a big deal because it didn’t lead to nearly as many deadly accidents. With driving, however, we must pay attention to how alcohol affects our ability to drive safely.
Today, we know that alcohol affects brain function. It impairs thinking and reasoning and coordination, all of which are essential to safe driving. As a person consumes more alcohol, the negative effects increase accordingly.
Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestine, then it’s passed into the blood until it’s metabolized by the liver. Once blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08%, driving ability is affected significantly, and thus crash risk. This is why it’s illegal in all states to drive with a BAC of .08% or higher.
However, research has found that even smaller amounts of alcohol can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. For this reason, it is possible to be charged with DUI in California with a BAC that’s below the .08%.
At .08% BAC, these are the typical effects:
- Lost muscle coordination
- Slowed reaction time
- Vision problems
- Impaired judgement and reasoning
- Loss of self-control
- Short-term memory loss
- Impaired perception
- Reduced information processing ability
- Difficulty detecting danger
Of course, the more alcohol in the driver’s system and the higher the BAC, the more these above problems are exaggerated. For example, at .15% BAC, the person can lose significantly more muscle control, they can begin vomiting, and they can experience a “major loss of balance,” according to the NHTSA.