Drinking and driving puts everyone on the road in jeopardy. That includes the irresponsible men and women who consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel as well as millions of sober motorists and their passengers.
The legal blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, in many areas throughout the United States and Canada is .08. But alcohol affects people’s ability to drive regardless of how much they’ve had to drink. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that the following are some predictable effects on drivers and their ability to drive at certain BAC levels.
• .02: People with a BAC of .02 typically experience some loss of judgment and feelings of relaxation. Slight body warmth and altered mood are some other normal effects when a person’s BAC is .02. Drivers can expect to experience a decline in visual functions and a diminished ability to perform two tasks at once when driving with a .02 BAC.
• .05: Exaggerated behavior, possible loss of small-muscle control, such as an ability to focus the eyes, impaired judgment, lowered alertness, and release of inhibition are some typical effects of a .05 BAC. When behind the wheel with a .05 BAC, drivers can expect reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, and a reduced response to emergency driving situations.
• .08: At .08, muscle coordination becomes poor, affecting balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. People with a BAC of .08 will find it hard to detect danger and their judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory will be impaired. Driving with a .08 BAC affects concentration, impairs perception and reduces drivers’ ability to capably processs information, including detecting other drivers’ signals. Short-term memory loss also is one of the predictable effects of driving with a .08 BAC.
• .10: People experience a clear deterioration of their reaction time and control when their BAC reaches .10. Slurred speech, slowed thinking and poor coordination are some additional effects of a BAC of .10. When driving with a BAC of .10, drivers have a reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.
• .15: A .15 BAC is nearly twice the legal limit in many areas. People with such a high BAC will have considerably less muscle control than normal and a major loss of balance. Drivers with a .15 BAC experience substantial impairment when trying to control their vehicles and will experience difficulty paying attention to the task of driving. Drivers also will struggle to process necessary visual and auditory information.
Alcohol begins to impair people’s motor skills and judgment even when consumed in small amounts. When drinking, men and women should never get behind the wheel.