Alcohol affects your driving ability

Introduction

Alcohol reduces your ability to drive and increases your risk of being involved in a collision. There are key reasons why you should refrain from drinking and driving:
  • Alcohol affects your driving ability
  • Alcohol increases your chance of being in a fatal collision
  • Alcohol increases your chance that if you are the drinking driver you will be responsible for a crash if it occurs
This module is about specific ways alcohol affects your brain and your ability to drive.

Learning Objectives

This module covers the effects of Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) on driving skills. The topics that will be addressed include:
  1. Divided Attention
  2. Information Processing
  3. Tracking and Reaction Time
  4. BAL and Reaction Time
  5. Managing Your Risk

1. Divided Attention

It may not seem difficult, but driving is a complex multi-tasking activity. The driving environment is full of information that you need to pay attention to and it is critical for you to be able to process several messages at once.

Examples of the types of continuous information you receive and need to process include:
  • Changing road conditions
  • Traffic conditions
  • Traffic signals, signs, and markings
  • Pedestrians and other road users
  • Interpreting or operating dashboard information (speed, gauges, lights)
  • Changing radio channels and CDs
  • Talking with your passengers
You must divide your attention among many different things on each trip. No matter how often you take the same route, the drive is always different. Your situation can also change very quickly. If your ability to divide your attention is impaired, the chances of being involved in a collision increase.

Alcohol has been shown to affect divided attention at BALs as low as .02, but most certainly at .05.

One of the most dangerous distractions while driving is your cell phone. Several states have already banned cell phone use while driving. In May 2007, Washington became the first state to ban the practice of driving while texting.

In 2009, 18% of the fatalities and 5% of the injuries in distraction-related crashes were the result of being distracted by a cellphone.

Before driving, become familiar with the features of your phone and program the numbers you use most often. If you have a phone in your vehicle, do not use it while the vehicle is in motion. To avoid the distraction of it ringing, turn the phone off or set it to go to voicemail.

If you need to have a conversation, pull over and use the phone only when you are parked in a safe and secure location.

Text messaging or surfing the internet on your wireless device while driving takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. This makes using a wireless device a distraction with one of the highest risks. When texting you are not looking at the road ahead and you are not using your hands to control the direction of your vehicle. To compound the risk, using a wireless device requires your thought process to be diverted from the task of driving.

If you think you are fast with your device and have a stronger than survival need to continuously communicate using your phone or wireless device when driving, think about this the next time you want to send a text message:

If you are traveling at 60 mph, you will travel almost the length of a football field in three seconds. A lot can happen in that amount of time with your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.

2. Information Processing

After information has been received by your brain, it must be sorted out and processed, much like a computer. You need to take in and processes a great deal of information while you are driving, such as:

Interpreting the meaning of different road markings, for example, dashed white lines on the highway versus a dashed yellow line.

Processing the meaning of warning, informational, and directional signs. All those signs are giving you information about hazards, distance, speed limits, and directions to locations. For example, when you see a pennant-shaped sign placed on the left side of the road which means “no passing,” you must accurately judge the speed, direction, and intentions of other vehicles on the road with you. This could involve an increase or decrease in speed, signaling, lane changes, and making turns.

Alcohol has been found to adversely affect information processing at BALs as low as .02, but certainly at .05 or greater.

3. Tracking and Reaction Time

Tracking

The lanes on our roadway system are not very wide and your vehicle takes up most of that space. You need to be able to control your vehicle accurately and precisely enough to stay in your lane. This is called tracking.

Tracking, or maintaining your vehicle within this relatively small area of travel, requires constant attention to steering and intermittent braking/acceleration adjustments.

If your BAL is in the .05-.08 range, your ability to track properly will be impaired. A common clue to law enforcement that a driver is impaired is the inability to track in the lane. Sometimes this is referred to as “weaving.” Avoid drivers that wander or weave in their lane - the driver may be impaired. Position your vehicle behind them and maintain a long following distance.

Reaction Time

Studies have looked at two types of reaction time, “simple” and “complex.”

Simple reaction time is a stimulus response. If you touch something that is hot or electrified, you do not have to make a conscious decision to remove your hand. Basically, simple reaction time involves one action after receiving one stimulus. This could involve punching a button after hearing a certain sound or seeing a light come on.

Complex reaction time involves you selecting a specific and correct response from several choices when presented with several different stimuli. For example, in a experiment testing your ability to react to a complex situation you may be told to:
  • Press button A in response to a green light.
  • Press button B in response to a blue light.
  • Press button C in response to a red light.
Then the light would come on in a random pattern requiring you to correctly identify which light is illuminated and then correctly select and depress the appropriate button.

This activity is obviously more complicated and would take more time than a response to only one light with one button.

Another example of simple versus complex reaction time is to compare moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake (simple) vs. having to brake, shift gears, signal, and hit the horn in a correct order (complex).

Based on these definitions, driving a motor vehicle often requires complex reaction because when you drive seldom do you deal with only one stimulus. When driving, you are constantly encountering numerous different situations and processing several things at once - and you have to be able to react quickly.

4. BAL and Reaction Time

An experiment was conducted by the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies at Texas A&M University, using both a control and experimental group.

A total of 19 drivers varying in age, race, and sex were trained on six different exercises involving: steering, braking, judgment, reaction time, tracking, and general car control.

Driving exercises were divided into more complex areas (skid control, crash simulator, and auto control, which involved greater handling skills) and less complex (blocked lane, slalom, and T-Turn, which involved lesser amounts of judgment and handling).

After all drivers were tested in a sober condition, people in the experimental group drank alcoholic beverages of their choice (beer, wine coolers, mixed drinks, etc.). Breath and blood tests were then done and drivers re-drove the course. A steady decline in driving ability occurred as BALs increased, even though they drove exactly the same course on all trials.

Performances on the more complex maneuvers (skid control, crash simulator, and auto control) were affected much more than performance on maneuvers requiring less coordination of decision-making ability with motor ability (blocked lane, slalom, and T-Turn), even though there were losses on even these simple maneuvers as BAL increased.

While any alcohol produced losses, the more complex areas showed the greatest losses. This demonstrates that while you as a drinking driver may steer and brake adequately in simple everyday driving, mistakes are much more likely when you face something sudden or unexpected.

These results clearly show that while you may be able to steer, brake, etc. in many situations, fine muscle control and decision-making are impaired at BALs less than the level of .08.

It should be noted that the control (non-drinking) group’s performance was unchanged throughout the experiment.

This experiment demonstrated:
  • If your BAL is at .04 you can expect a 13% drop in complex performance compared to the sober level.
  • If your BAL is .07 you can expect a 17% drop in complex performance compared to the sober level.
  • If your BAL is .10 you can expect a 24% drop in complex performance compared to the sober level.

5. Managing Your Risk

Driving involves taking some risk each time a trip is made. All motor vehicle operators accept and take risks. There is always the chance of being in a collision any time you drive.

Your goal should be to accept only those risks where the rewards outweigh the possible losses.

If you are under the influence of alcohol, it has been shown you are more likely to take more risks (drive excessively quickly or slowly, for example) than if you are sober.

Unfortunately, alcohol tends to make you take more risks at a time when you are the least able to cope with the risk involved. There is a multiple effect in action which can lead to collisions, injury, and death. This multiple effect will occur by at least .10 BAL and probably before that level.

The reasons you may take more risks after drinking include:

Impaired judgment and decision-making processes.
Lessened inhibitions may produce a desire to “show off” or release anger and hostility while driving.
Fleeing a police officer - If a traffic violation has been observed, you may try to get away from the officer because of the fear of a DUI arrest.

Alcohol also tends to produce more aggressive behavior in most people (willing to take greater risks or “show off”) while at the same time lowering the ability to cope with driving situations. Risk-taking has been shown to be affected at a BAL of .10.

SUMMARY Review
  • You must divide your attention among many different things on each trip. These things are never exactly the same from trip to trip and also can change from second to second on any given trip. Alcohol has been shown to affect divided attention at BALs as low as .02, but most certainly at .08.

  • You need to take in and processes a great deal of information while you are driving, including interpreting the meaning of various road markings and informational signs.

  • You must judge the speed, direction, and intentions of other vehicles. Alcohol has been found to adversely affect information processing at BALs as low as .02, but certainly at .05 or greater.

  • There are simple and complex reaction times. Driving presents a continuous “complex” situation requiring the ability to react and do many things at once.

  • A steady decline in driving ability occurs as BALs increase. Complex maneuvers are affected much more because fine muscle control and decision-making are impaired at BALs less than the level of .08.

  • Driving involves taking some risk each time a trip is made. Your goal should be to accept only those risks in which the rewards outweigh the possible losses. If you are under the influence of alcohol, you are more likely to take more risks (drive excessively quickly or slowly, for example) than if you are sober.

  • Alcohol tends to produce more aggressive behavior in most people (willing to take greater risks or “show off”) while at the same time lowering the ability to cope with driving situations.


Blood Alcohol Level and Impaired driving

Alcohol affects your driving ability

The Cost of Alcohol and Drug Impairment



Florida TLSAE/Drug & Alcohol 4 hour Course Online

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This is a first-time drivers ed course for new aspiring drivers. The state of Florida requires all new drivers take a 4-hour drug and alcohol course. If you want your Permit License you must take this course. You can take the DATA course when you are 14 1/2. You can sign up right now at our website. Our course is easy and fun!
  •     Florida 4 hour first-time drivers course also referred as:
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  •     DATA - Drug Alcohol Traffic Awareness course
  •     DATE Drug Alcohol Traffic Awareness Education course
  •     ADAPT - Alcohol Drugs Accident Prevention Training
  •     Drug & Alcohol Course or Drug and Alcohol Class
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  •     The Permit Test is also known as the DMV Exam or DMV Test
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