blog home Drunk Driving Accident What Alcohol Does to Make Drivers More Dangerous

By Renee Nordstrand on April 20, 2024

An alcoholic drink, a car key and a judges gavel on a table.

The alarming reality is that alcohol consumption significantly hinders a driver’s capacity to react swiftly to changing road conditions, and no intoxicated person should ever get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

The detrimental effects of alcohol on a person’s driving abilities include the impairment of motor skills, coordination, cognitive functions, reaction time, and vision. Drunk drivers make bad decisions. Driving under the influence of alcohol significantly impairs the driver’s judgment, leading to an increased likelihood of speeding and reckless driving behavior.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Explained

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a measure of the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. BAC levels can vary based on several factors, including body weight, gender, rate of consumption, and individual metabolism. It is typically expressed as a percentage that indicates the concentration of alcohol per volume of blood. For example, a BAC of 0.08% means that there are 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. This level of 0.08% is the legal limit for adults driving under the influence in many jurisdictions.

The higher the BAC, the more pronounced the impairment of motor skills and coordination. Legal limits are set based on research that shows significant impairment in driving skills at or above 0.08% BAC. Understanding BAC is critical for individuals to gauge their own levels of impairment and for law enforcement to determine when a driver is legally intoxicated.

Drinking Increases Reckless Behavior

Because alcohol impairs a person’s judgment, drunk drivers are more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Alcohol consumption affects the brain’s frontal lobes, which are responsible for judgment, impulse control, and the ability to foresee consequences. When these areas are compromised by alcohol, drivers are more likely to take risks that they normally wouldn’t consider while sober, such as driving at excessive speeds, making illegal turns, or weaving through traffic.

The sedative effect of alcohol may lead to overconfidence in one’s driving abilities, further increasing the likelihood of reckless behavior. Alcohol also impairs the function of the cerebellum, which controls coordination and movement. This combination of impaired judgment and coordination sets the stage for potentially dangerous and reckless driving situations.

Alcohol Reduces Vision and Depth Perception

Alcohol disturbs eye muscle coordination, resulting in blurred or double vision, and alters the eye’s ability to adjust to different levels of light. These visual effects can be disorienting for drivers, particularly at night or during adverse weather conditions, when the ability to see clearly and judge distances is paramount.

Alcohol can slow down the pupil’s reaction, impairing the driver’s ability to recognize and respond to sudden changes on the road, such as the brake lights of a car ahead. Depth perception, the ability to judge the distance of objects, becomes compromised under the influence of alcohol, making it difficult to determine how far away a street sign, pedestrian, or vehicle is.

Alcohol Decreases Coordination and Motor Skills

Coordination is essential for executing small, precise movements, such as steering or shifting gears. Alcohol disrupts this fine motor coordination, resulting in jerky, exaggerated movements or a lack of control altogether. Drivers with impaired coordination due to alcohol are more likely to misjudge distances and timing, which increases the likelihood of collisions.

The correlation between alcohol consumption and reduced coordination is evident across various studies, showing a clear pattern of degraded driving performance as BAC levels rise.

Alcohol Impairs Cognitive Functions

The influence of alcohol on cognitive functions is particularly dangerous because these functions are critical for driving. Alcohol impairs the brain’s executive functions, which include problem-solving, memory, and judgment. This can lead to poor decision-making on the road, where split-second choices can mean the difference between safety and disaster.

Drivers who have consumed alcohol are more prone to take risks, underestimate the severity of situations, and misjudge their own impairment levels. They might also experience short-term memory lapses, forgetting the last few minutes of their drive or missing traffic signals. Such cognitive impairments reduce a driver’s ability to foresee and respond to potential hazards, ultimately compromising not only their safety but that of others on the road.

Alcohol Reduces Reaction Time

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and its consumption can significantly slow down a driver’s reaction time. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it reduces the speed at which the brain processes information from the senses, delays the transmission of impulses between nerve cells, and impairs the thought process.

Even at low levels, alcohol has been shown to affect reaction times, with greater consumption leading to more substantial delays. This reduced ability to react promptly can have dire consequences on the road. Understanding the impact of alcohol on reaction time is crucial for drivers – they need to make informed choices about alcohol consumption before getting behind the wheel.

Compensation Available for Drunk Driving Accident Victims in Santa Barbara

Victims of drunk driving accidents have the right to seek compensation for economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover tangible costs such as medical treatment, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and rehabilitation. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

Punitive damages serve as a financial punishment for those whose egregious negligence leads to a drunk driving accident. These damages are not tied to the direct losses suffered by the victim but are intended to penalize the wrongdoer and deter similar negligent behavior in the future.

CACI 3940 is a jury instruction used in California courts that outlines the guidelines for awarding punitive damages. The instruction clarifies that punitive damages can be awarded if the plaintiff can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent conduct.

Santa Barbara Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Help Victims of Intoxicated Drivers

At NordstrandBlack PC, our lawyers have dedicated our law practice to getting compensation for people who have been seriously injured by the careless actions of others. Our firm has a perfect 10.0 Avvo rating and an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell.

Our attorneys handle all cases on a contingency basis, so you won’t owe us anything unless we win. Call (805) 962-2022 to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our Santa Barbara drunk driving accident lawyers today.