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How Alcohol Affects Driving

Alcohol has played a major role in our society since the first settlers came to America from Europe. Before that, alcohol was not only a popular beverage, it was often safer to drink than water. We didn’t pay too much attention to the “effects” of alcohol until the machine age and the invention of the automobile. It wasn’t long after man started working with machines and driving them that it became clear, “alcohol and machinery don’t mix.”

“Alcohol is a depressant because it slows down the functions of the central nervous system. This means that normal brain function is delayed, and a person is unable to perform normally,” reports the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD). The NCADD goes on to explain that the more alcohol is consumed, the more likely the individual is to be in an accident.

“When alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires – such as judgement, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time – become impaired,” said the NCADD.

Drunk driving statistics reported by the NCADD:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that about 32% of fatal car accidents involve a driver or pedestrian who was intoxicated.
  • According to FARS, nearly 3,955 drivers killed in crashes tested positive for drugs.
  • In 2011, more than 1.2 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The leading cause of death for teenagers is automobile accidents and about 25 percent of those fatal accidents involved a drunk driver under the age of 21.

Alcohol is a Depressant

Alcohol slows down the central nervous system; therefore, it is considered to be a depressant. This mean alcohol affects the brain, slowing it down and impairing the person’s ability to perform at normal levels. Alcohol affects:

  • Speech
  • Judgement
  • Memory
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Reaction time
  • Depth perception
  • Rationalizing
  • Hand-eye coordination

When people consume alcohol before driving, it significantly increases the risk of injury accidents and roadway fatalities. The more alcohol a person consumes, the greater the risk of a crash. “When alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires – such as judgement, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time – become impaired,” according to the NCADD.

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