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How Can Alcohol Impair Your Driving?

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Alcohol impairs your judgment, vision, color distinction, and reaction time, all of which are crucial skills for driving. Even one drink can impair your ability to drive safely, depending on your size, weight, gender, and how alcohol affects you.

What Is the First Thing Impaired by Alcohol?

Your judgment is the first thing that will be impaired by alcohol. For many people, the first drink produces a feeling of relaxation. As nice as this feeling is, it also diminishes your ability to respond appropriately to situations behind the wheel.

For example, you may not notice a driver who is following too closely or driving aggressively until it is too late, and they cause a car accident. Worse, you could face some responsibility for this collision simply because you had alcohol in your system at the time of the crash – even if your BAC was well below the legal limit.

Drinking also decreases your reaction time significantly. If you are driving at high speeds, this could mean you take up to 12 additional feet to come to a stop, which could be the difference between getting into an accident and avoiding one.

BAC also starts to affect vision at 0.02%, which translates to 2 drinks for a 160-pound man. In other words, one drink might be safe for some, but each subsequent drink can and will cause impairment.

Each Drink Causes More Impairment

Ideally, no one should operate a motor vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol (even one drink). However, many people stop for a happy hour on the way home or drive home from a concert after having a beer, and the legal limit is a BAC of 0.08%, so their behavior is not illegal. You have probably driven home after having a glass of wine with dinner and been just fine.

No matter what, you are responsible for knowing how alcohol affects you and what is and is not safe. Keep in mind that the more alcohol you consume, the harder it is to judge how intoxicated you are.

Learn your own limits in a safe and controlled environment (where you will not be driving) and follow them whenever you are out. For example, if you start feeling the effects of alcohol after 2 drinks, plan to limit yourself to one drink or find another way home. If in doubt, do not drink at all.

Sobering Up Only Happens with Time

Although food can change the way you metabolize alcohol, it does not take the substance out of your system. Only time can eliminate alcohol from your body, and it takes about one hour for the body to get rid of one drink.

Drinking coffee, getting fresh air, or splashing cold water on your face may make you feel more alert, but it will not get rid of alcohol impairment.

Remember that you are not “sober” unless your circulatory system is free from alcohol or other impairing drugs. If you have one drink at the beginning of a 2-hour dinner, you should be sober, but be careful about having a second – and be mindful that waiters and bartenders do not always adhere to standard pours.

If you plan on driving home, the safest course of action is to not drink at all. Other options include designating a sober driver, calling a cab, or finding another way home if you plan to drink.

Why You Should Play It Safe

Each year, approximately 2,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had low BACs. Any amount of alcohol can make it unsafe to drive, and the more you drink, the higher your chances of getting into an accident.

To learn more about why you should be extra cautious with alcohol, please read our blog, “Why Is Drunk Driving So Dangerous?

How to Protect Yourself

Protect yourself from the temptation to drive impaired by setting and sticking to strict limits or planning not to drive on the occasions you drink alcohol.

To protect yourself from other drivers on the road, always wear your seatbelt and drive defensively.

If you find yourself the victim of a drunk driving accident, talk to an attorney about your rights and legal options. Our team at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. has more than 100 years of combined legal experience, and we are willing to fight for you.

You should not have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s careless actions, and if you call us at (603) 288-1403 or contact us online, we can help make sure you don’t have to.