Just consuming one alcoholic drink can cause driver impairment, data shows

5 Sep, 2014
By: Donald W Fohrman
Just consuming one alcoholic drink can cause driver impairment, data shows

There are 1.2 tablespoons of pure ethanol alcohol contained in a standard drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Most people would consider this to be an insignificant amount, but it increases the likelihood of a car accident when an individual gets behind the wheel.

A small amount of alcohol affects mental and physical processes

There are many areas of the brain affected by alcohol because it blocks the chemicals that communicate messages throughout the brain’s various regions. The effects on the cerebellum include slower reaction times and balance issues. A low dose of alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which leads to ignoring the consequences of actions. One drink also affects the frontal lobe’s ability to make decisions and control impulses. This is why so many individuals who have had a drink decide that they are sober enough to drive when they are not.

These areas in the brain continue to be affected for hours after the blood alcohol level goes down and cause changes to many of a person’s cognitive processes, including the following:

  • Awareness
  • Restraint
  • Coordination
  • Concentration
  • Judgment
  • Response time 

One drink also affects eyesight by impairing focus, depth perception, tracking and reaction to light. The result of these mental and physical issues has resulted in many fatalities, even though one drink may not raise the blood alcohol level enough to legally constitute drunk driving.

Millions of drivers ignore the dangers of alcohol 

In spite of lower blood alcohol limits, campaigns promoting designated drivers and increased awareness, alcohol-impaired drivers cause 170,000 injury accidents and nearly 10,000 fatalities each year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Their research shows that alcohol is a factor in about 31 percent of all fatal highway crashes. Furthermore, over two hundred of the victims each year are children under the age of fourteen.

Driving under the influence of alcohol continues to be a significant problem in the United States, and yet it does not appear to be a cause for concern to many drivers. Over 13 percent of licensed drivers, equating to about 30 million people behind the wheel, admit to having driven after drinking alcohol. Additionally, one out of every four teenagers with a driver’s license say they have driven under the influence.

Alcohol creates significant risks for everyone on the road. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help victims of alcohol-related crashes to navigate the legal system and understand the options available.

About The Author

Photo of Donald W Fohrman
After completing law school Donald became an assistant Attorney General for 7 years and was assigned to the Industrial Commission Division. During that time he spent evenings establishing his own firm. Donald became a founding partner of a large workers’ compensation/personal injury firm but decided to leave the firm in 1990 to start a smaller “boutique” firm with the belief that bigger isn’t always better!
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